In the last three decades, obesity has become one of the biggest public health care concerns.
Its prevalence is worrying not only because of the growing numbers of people suffering from it but also because obesity is a major risk factor for various chronic diseases.
Conventional prevention and treatment of obesity and its complications include lifestyle changes, like a balanced diet and physical activity.
However, in recent years the use of functional foods and their bioactive compounds has been in the limelight.
Polyphenols, in particular, are bioactive compounds naturally occurring in plants.
They’re primarily known for their anti-inflammatory properties, and they’re linked to many health benefits.
A recent review published in the International Journal of Molecular Science looks into the positive effects of polyphenols on obesity.
Obesity is serious because it increases the risk of type 2 diabetes, fatty liver disease, high blood pressure, heart attack, stroke, dementia, and osteoarthritis, among others.
More precisely, type 2 diabetes is a disease most often linked to obesity, so much so that by 2025 it’s expected to rise to 300 million worldwide, according to research. 
Modifying dietary habits has proved to be the most successful approach for obesity.
In line with this, recent studies have shown that the intake of polyphenols and polyphenol-rich foods could successfully support obesity treatment.
Their antioxidative and anti-inflammatory effects can affect the metabolic and endocrine processes in the body with few side-effects.
Polyphenols are micronutrients and they’re a regular part of the human diet.
They are plant metabolites and are found in fruits, veggies, cereals, legumes, and other plant-derived foods, like wine and chocolate.
Their main superpower is that they can neutralize free radicals and protect the body from oxidative stress, as well as reduce inflammation.
In obesity, a major cause for developing any chronic disease is increased inflammation and oxidative damage.
Some Potent Polyphenols
- Curcumin is a well-known polyphenol, and it’s the main bioactive compound in turmeric. It was shown that curcumin supplementation can help weight-loss by decreasing lipid storage in the body.
- Quercetin is one of the most powerful antioxidants from plant origin. It’s mainly found in onions, garlic, ginger, apples, and even wine. Quercetin could possibly be used for treating obesity, although more studies are needed. So far, it has been shown that it can lower triglycerides.
- Resveratrol is found in more than 70 different plant species, especially in the skin of red grapes. Tea, berries, pomegranates, nuts, and dark chocolate are rich in resveratrol. Resveratrol exerts a lipid-lowering effect and can regulate the energy homeostasis in the body.
- Green tea has received a lot of attention for its health benefits, including its effects on obesity. It’s rich in polyphenols called catechins that are potent antioxidants. One 2g green tea bag contains roughly 500mg of catechins. It was shown that green tea can increase energy expenditure and fat oxidation, thereby helping weight-loss.
- Citrus fruits and their juices are rich in many bioactive compounds, like flavonoids and carotenoids. Studies have shown that consuming half a grapefruit three times a day for 8 to 12 weeks reduced body weight in obese individuals. The total cholesterol was also lowered.
- Soybeans are highly nutritious and known to prevent high cholesterol, cardiovascular diseases, and type 2 diabetes. Soybeans have been studied for a long time because they have many health benefits. Both animal and human studies have shown that soybeans can be used to prevent and control obesity. Soybeans improve inflammatory response in the body, and they lower cholesterol, triglycerides, and body weight.
Obesity is a serious condition impairing the lives of millions and polyphenols offer a novel way for treatment and prevention.
However, the exact dosage needed to maximize all their positive effects without causing toxicity needs to be thoroughly examined.
In the meantime, polyphenol-rich foods, a balanced diet, and physical activity could suffice.
Resource: Boccellino, M.; D’Angelo, S. Anti-Obesity Effects of Polyphenol Intake: Current Status and Future Possibilities. Int. J. Mol. Sci. 2020, 21, 5642. doi:https://doi.org/10.3390/ijms21165642