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Nutr Neurosci. 2012 May;15(3):134-49. doi: 10.1179/1476830512Y.0000000006. Epub 2012 Mar 26.

Role of polyphenols in cell death control.

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  • 1Department of Veterinary Public Health and Food Safety, Italian National Institute of Health, Rome, Italy.


Dietary consumption of fruit, vegetables, fish, and olive oil has been demonstrated to exert beneficial effects on human health. This finding may be due to the high content of antioxidant compounds including polyphenols. Current evidence strongly supports a contribution of polyphenols to the prevention of several chronic degenerative diseases such as cancer, atherosclerosis and cardiovascular diseases, central nervous system disorders, as well as aging. Apoptosis is a genetically controlled and evolutionarily conserved form of cell death of critical importance for the maintenance of tissue homeostasis in the adult organism. The malfunction of the death machinery may play a primary role in various pathologic processes, leading to proliferative or degenerative diseases. Polyphenols can interact with specific steps and/or proteins regulating the apoptotic process in different ways depending on their concentration, the cell system, the type or stage of the pathological process. Because of their ability to modulate cell death, polyphenols have been proposed as chemopreventive and therapeutic agents. This paper reviews and discusses the last 3-year findings related to the principal molecular mechanisms involved in the control of the balance between apoptosis and cell proliferation exerted by polyphenols.

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