Insulin resistance (IR) is apparent when tissues responsible for clearing glucose from the blood, such as adipose and muscle, do not respond properly to appropriate signals. IR is estimated based on fasting blood glucose and insulin, but some measures also incorporate an oral glucose challenge. Certain (poly)phenols, as supplements or in foods, can improve insulin resistance by several mechanisms including lowering postprandial glucose, modulating glucose transport, affecting insulin signalling pathways, and by protecting against damage to insulin-secreting pancreatic β-cells. As shown by intervention studies on volunteers, the most promising candidates for improving insulin resistance are (−)-epicatechin, (−)-epicatechin-containing foods and anthocyanins. It is possible that quercetin and phenolic acids may also be active, but data from intervention studies are mixed. Longer term and especially dose-response studies on mildly insulin resistant participants are required to establish the extent to which (poly)phenols and (poly)phenol-rich foods may improve insulin resistance in compromised groups.
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