Polyphenols and Cognition In Humans: An Overview of Current Evidence from Recent Systematic Reviews and Meta-Analyses

Brain Plast. 2021 Feb 9;6(2):139-153. doi: 10.3233/BPL-200111.


BACKGROUND: There is increasing interest in the impact of dietary influences on the brain throughout the lifespan, ranging from improving cognitive development in children through to attenuating ageing related cognitive decline and reducing risk of neurodegenerative diseases. Polyphenols, phytochemicals naturally present in a host of fruits, vegetables, tea, cocoa and other foods, have received particular attention in this regard, and there is now a substantial body of evidence from experimental and epidemiological studies examining whether their consumption is associated with cognitive benefits.

OBJECTIVE: The purpose of this overview is to synthesise and evaluate the best available evidence from two sources, namely meta-analyses and systematic reviews, in order to give an accurate reflection of the current evidence base for an association between polyphenols and cognitive benefits.

METHOD: Four meta-analyses and thirteen systematic reviews published between 2017-2020 were included, and were categorised according to whether they reviewed specific polyphenol-rich foods and classes or all polyphenols. A requirement for inclusion was assessment of a behavioural cognitive outcome in humans.

RESULTS: A clear and consistent theme emerged that whilst there is support for an association between polyphenol consumption and cognitive benefits, this conclusion is tentative, and by no means definitive. Considerable methodological heterogeneity was repeatedly highlighted as problematic such that the current evidence base does not support reliable conclusions relating to efficacy of specific doses, duration of treatment, or sensitivity in specific populations or certain cognitive domains. The complexity of multiple interactions between a range of direct and indirect mechanisms of action is discussed.

CONCLUSIONS: Further research is required to strengthen the reliability of the evidence base.

PMID:33782647 | PMC:PMC7990468 | DOI:10.3233/BPL-200111