If it sounds too good to be true…
Dear Dr. Roach: I am 67 years old and in pretty good health. I take atorvastatin daily, and my cholesterol is much better since I started it. I have one big problem: I cannot sleep, and I am tired all day. I read about a polyphenol supplement. It’s supposed to increase energy level, help your digestive system, help you sleep and make you feel much better. Do you think this is a good product to take? — D.B.
Answer: An alarm bell should ring when you hear a supplement is supposed to have a great number of beneficial effects. In the case of polyphenols, there was a study that showed some benefit in improving blood cholesterol levels in people who consumed high-polyphenol virgin olive oil, compared with low-polyphenol refined oil; however, I couldn’t find evidence that a supplement had any benefits in energy level, digestion or sleep.
Polyphenols are found in many healthy foods, especially fruits, but also tea, coffee, cocoa and red wine. I would recommend a healthy diet with many fruits and vegetables, and the beverages above for those who enjoy them, but I can’t recommend a supplement. While it is true that some people will feel better after taking it, and I doubt that there is significant harm in doing so, I think the benefit is most likely to come from the hopeful expectation of benefit rather than from the contents of the pill.