What For?

Diets rich in polyphenols, the natural plant-based phytochemicals found in healthy foods, have been linked with lower risks of chronic illnesses such as dementia, high cholesterol, arthritis, heart disease, skin aging and macular degeneration [Denny, Elments, Karppi, Rezai-Zadeh, Porrini]. Well-conducted population studies have also linked their regular intake with lower risks of many cancers including breast [Hu], pancreatic [Banim], oesophageal [Sun], ovarian [Wu, Tung], prostate [Giovannucci, Chaoyang, Joseph], and skin cancer [Heinen].

The anti-cancer effects of polyphenols, however, do not stop after a diagnosis of cancer. Breast cancer survivors eating polyphenol-rich fruit, vegetables, soy and green tea were found to have lower relapse rates [Pierce, Buck, Boyapati, Ogunleye]. Individuals with skin cancer, who had a high intake of leafy green vegetables and broccoli, had lower rates of new cancer formation [Heinen]. A healthy lifestyle including a polyphenol rich diet has been linked to a slower rate of PSA progression among men with painless prostate cancer [Ornish].

Although polyphenol-rich supplements are showing some promise, it is clear that not all polyphenols have anti-cancer effects, and those which do, are likely to have different benefits in different combinations amongst different individuals [Parada, Greenhall, Moysich, Porrini]. The largest and scientifically robust evaluation was the Pomi-T study. This double blind randomised controlled trial (RCT) involved 200 men with slowly progressing prostate cancer. There was a
63% difference in the rate of rise of PSA and a significant number of men stayed on active surveillance on the food supplement arm [Thomas ASCO 2013].

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