Background: The incidence of diabetes mellitus (DM) is reaching alarming proportions
worldwide, particularly because it is increasingly affecting younger people. This
reflects the sedentary lifestyle and inappropriate dietary habits, especially due to the advent
of processed foods in modern societies. Thus, unsurprisingly, the first medical recommendation
to patients with clinically evident DM is the alteration in their eating behaviour, particularly
regarding carbohydrates and total energy intake. Despite individual and cultural preferences,
human diet makes available a large amount of phytochemicals with therapeutic potential.
Phenolic compounds are the most abundant class of phytochemicals in edible plants,
fruits and beverages. These compounds have strong antioxidant and anti-inflammatory activities
that have been associated with specific features of their chemical structure. Among
others, such properties make them promising antidiabetic agents and several mechanisms of
action have already been proposed.
Objective: Herein, we discuss the recent findings on the potential of dietary phenolic compounds
for the prevention and/or treatment of (pre)diabetes, and associated complications.
Conclusion: A broad range of studies supports the innate potential of phenolic compounds to
protect against DM-associated deleterious effects. Their antidiabetic activity has been demonstrated
by: i) regulation of carbohydrate metabolism; ii) improvement of glucose uptake;
iii) protection of pancreatic β-cells; iv) enhancement of insulin action and v) regulation of
crucial signalling pathways to cell homeostasis. Dietary phenolic compounds constitute an
easy, safe and cost-effective way to combat the worrying scenario of DM. The interesting
particularities of phenolic compounds reinforce the implementation of a (poly)phenolic-rich
nutritional regime, not only for (pre)diabetic patients, but also for non-diabetic people.