Presentations on the topic “Polyphenols: Anything but secondary?” were held by Prof. Dr. Andreas Schieber and Dr. Maike Gleichenhagen from the University of Bonn, and Dr. Volker Herdegen from the Eckes-Granini Group GmbH. The Consumer's Association NRW (Verbraucherzentrale NRW), the Federal Institute of Agriculture and Nutrition (Bundesinstitut für Landwirtschaft und Ernährung, BLE), as well as other institutions and companies from the region of Bonn were represented. In cooperation with the competence cluster Diet-Body-Brain (DietBB) new research results were presented.
The event provides a platform to meet relevant stakeholders who are working in the field of agriculture and nutrition and to get in touch with potential partners for DietBB. The BAEN Café always takes place at different venues with a cultural background.
Prof. Dr. Andreas Schieber reported on phytochemicals, which were in the past considered the “playground of nature” with an unknown value. Long since we know, that they play a significant role in the plant. Phytochemicals in plants can act as a natural defence system providing protection from grazing animals or support nitrogen storage. For a long time phytochemicals seemed to be antinutritive, because some compounds have an inhibitory effect on the digestion or are even toxic. In the meantime there has been a paradigm shift: nowadays phytochemicals are mostly considered health promoting.
Polyphenols are a common class of phytochemicals. They can be classified into simple phenols, flavonoids, stilbenes, xanthones, and others. More than 10.000 flavonoids have already been identified. Recent studies suggest, that flavonoids may decrease the risk of cardiovascular and neurodegenerative diseases. In this respect especially anthocyanins, which exist in blueberries and blackberries play an important role. Up to now the mechanisms which are responsible for the health effects of phytochemicals, how they are absorbed and metabolized by the human body are insufficence explained. In the context of DietBB the influence of the food matrix on phenolic compounds and their bioavailability will be investigated. Even the chemical structure has an influence on the bioavailability, according to Dr. Maike Gleichenhagen. “It is consequently relevant, whether it is an anthocyanidin or an anthocyanin.” Moreover the doses, the individual gut microbiota, and the food matrix are important. The scientist will conduct research on the analytics of these compounds. In collaboration with nutrition physiologists her results will be included into an intervention study.
According to Dr. Volker Herdegen, the bioavailability of carotenoids, another class of phytochemicals, is higher from fruit juices than from whole fruits as demonstrated in recently published studies. As a Manager Applied Research for the Eckes-Granini Group GmbH he is among other things responsible for academic research. “In the discussion about fruit juices we currently focus on the sugar content. From the health point of view the bioflavonoids, carotenoids and vitamins contained in high concentrations in juices however, are of much more interest.” He believes that the investigation of positive characteristics of phytochemicals in particular offer great potential for the future.
(Dr. Claudia Müller, DGE)