Natural phenol polymers are widely represented in nature and include a variety of classes including tannins and lignins as the most prominent. Largely consumed foods are rich sources of phenol polymers, notably black foods traditionally used in East Asia, but other non-edible, easily accessible sources, e.g., seaweeds and wood, have been considered with increasing interest together with waste materials from agro-based industries, primarily grape pomace and other byproducts of fruit and coffee processing. Not in all cases were the main structural components of these materials identified because of their highly heterogeneous nature. The great beneficial effects of natural phenol-based polymers on human health and their potential in improving the quality of food were largely explored, and this review critically addresses the most interesting and innovative reports in the field of nutrition and biomedicine that have appeared in the last five years. Several in vivo human and animal trials supported the proposed use of these materials as food supplements and for amelioration of the health and production of livestock. Biocompatible and stable functional polymers prepared by peroxidase-catalyzed polymerization of natural phenols, as well as natural phenol polymers were exploited as conventional and green plastic additives in smart packaging and food-spoilage prevention applications. The potential of natural phenol polymers in regenerative biomedicine as additives of biomaterials to promote growth and differentiation of osteoblasts is also discussed.
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