Polyphenols in the prevention and treatment of sepsis syndromes: Rationale and pre-clinical evidence

Haim Shapiro, Shaul Lev, Jonathan Cohen, Pierre Singer

Research output: Contribution to journalReview articlepeer-review


Sepsis is the overwhelming systemic response to infection of a normally sterile body compartment. Despite advances in elucidating its pathophysiology, severe sepsis remains a leading cause of death in the critically ill. Polyphenols are a family of chemicals found in food and beverages derived from plants, such as cocoa, green tea, turmeric, and soya, as well as in medicinal herbs. These phytochemicals exhibit anti-inflammatory and vasculoprotective properties in clinical and preclinical studies. The oral or systemic administration of polyphenols protects rodents from endotoxinemia and microbial sepsis. Under these circumstances, polyphenols reproducibly attenuate microvascular hyperpermeability, tissue infiltration by leukocytes, oxidative and nitrosative stress, tissue injury, organ dysfunction, shock and vasoplegia, lactate production, and mortality. Importantly, efficacy is maintained in some cases even when treatment is initiated hours after the onset of sepsis. The inhibition of nuclear factor-κB activation and subsequent expression of inducible nitric oxide synthase, adhesion molecules, and tumor necrosis factor-α by polyphenols is operative in ameliorating the sequelae of sepsis. Enhancement of the endogenous antioxidant capacity probably also contributes to the effectiveness of the polyphenols. Because several of the polyphenols reviewed in this article appear to be safe and to exert anti-inflammatory effects in humans, clinical trials assessing their efficacy in the critically ill are indicated. Whether delivered alone or in combination with nutritional formulas, polyphenols may help to prevent and treat sepsis.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)981-997
Number of pages17
Issue number10
StatePublished - Oct 2009
Externally publishedYes


  • Critical illness
  • Inflammation
  • Nuclear factor kappa B
  • Nutritional support
  • Phytochemicals

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Nutrition and Dietetics
  • Endocrinology, Diabetes and Metabolism


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