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Impact of dietary polyphenols on human platelet function – A critical review of controlled dietary intervention studies



Cardiovascular disease is a chronic disease influenced by many factors, with activated blood platelets being one of them. Platelets play a central role in the formation of plaques within blood vessels, contributing to early inflammatory events. Consumption of diets rich in plant-based products protects against the development of cardiovascular disease. Polyphenols, which are secondary plant metabolites found in a wide range of foodstuffs and beverages, may be partially responsible for these effects. Their protective properties include inhibitory effects on platelet function in vitro and in vivo. However, the bioavailability of many polyphenols is poor and it is unclear whether sufficient quantities can be obtained by dietary means to exert protective effects. Consequently, this review summarizes 25 well-controlled human intervention studies examining the effect of polyphenol-rich diets on platelet function. These studies report a huge variety of research methods, study designs, and study subjects, resulting in controversial assertions. One consistent finding is that cocoa-related products, however, have platelet-inhibiting effects when consumed in moderate amounts. To assess whether other classes of dietary polyphenols, or their metabolites, also beneficially affect platelet function requires more well-controlled intervention studies as well as the adoption of more uniform methods to assess platelet aggregation and activation.