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Stay healthy with polyphenols!

These molecules with antioxidant properties are found in the most common consumer products. They protect against numerous diseases.

Polyphenols help control free radical formation in humans and slow cell ageing. First and foremost, they are found in fruit and vegetables, but also in processed goods such as chocolate, tea or wine. Humans consume around a gramme of polyphenols a day, which is more than ten times the figure for vitamin C.

Strawberries, lychees and grapes are the fruits with the highest polyphenol content, but vegetables are not far behind, particularly artichokes, parsley and brussels sprouts. Moreover, total consumption also plays a role. As Pierre Brat* points out: "If we look at total polyphenol content in apples, they rank fifth compared to other fruits, but the extent of their consumption places them first!". Likewise, in terms of vegetables, potatoes rank just 19th, but their massive consumption means that they account for almost 60% of the polyphenols obtained from vegetables.

This prompted CIRAD and its partners to create a database, to set product composition against consumption. In all, the total polyphenol content of 162 vegetable and 71 fruit samples, along with 85 tea samples, was analysed. The results were used to compile a composition and consumption table, with values for 28 fruits and 24 vegetables (Journal of Nutrition, 2006, vol. 136, p. 2368-2373, co-author Pierre Brat).

The operation is continuing in the form of the Phénobase project, led by the CTCPA (Centre Technique de la Conservation des Produits Agricoles) in Avignon, in which CIRAD is also involved. The aim is to expand the database, this time looking at commonly consumed "processed" food products.

* Researcher with the CIRAD Qualisud Research Unit

Helen Burford | alfa
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