Flavonoids are a group of plant pigments that are responsible for many of the health benefits of fruits, vegetables, juices, and herbs. As a class of over 8,000 compounds, flavonoids are sometimes called “nature’s biological response modifiers” because of their anti-inflammatory, antiallergic, antiviral, and anticancer properties.
New data has confirmed a higher intake of flavonoids offers significant health benefits in reducing markers linked to cardiovascular disease (CVD).
A higher consumption of flavonoid sources such as apples, berries, green tea, dark chocolate, and red wine have all been shown in population studies to be associated with a significantly reduced risk for heart attacks and strokes. For example, data from the Nurses’ Health Study (NHS) II of 93,600 women, showed that a combined intake of >3 servings a week of blueberries and strawberries was associated with a 34% decreased risk of having a heart attack, compared to those consuming the berries once a month or less.
The major benefits of flavonoid consumption in protecting
In a study conducted at the University of Reading in the UK, researchers sought to determine the effects of different levels of flavonoid intakes on a variety of important markers of vascular function and other cardiovascular disease (CVD) risk.
Male and female low-fruit and vegetable (F&V) consumers who had a ≥ 1.5-fold increased risk of CVD were randomly assigned to receive a high flavonoid (HF) F&V or low flavonoid (LF) F&V intake and asked to increase the portions of these foods by +2, +4, and +6 portions/day every 6 weeks. Measures of vascular
Results were most pronounced in men, but even women showed benefits. Detailed analysis showed the HF F&V diet increased endothelial cell function and vascular health measured by a variety of ways and also reduced systemic inflammation, as noted by a significant reduction in C-reactive protein.
A higher intake of HF F&Vs also increased plasma nitric oxide. This compound plays a central role in determining the tone of blood vessels and renal function. Specifically, it exerts a relaxing effect on blood vessels, thereby improving blood flow, and improves kidney function. By increasing nitric oxide levels, a higher intake of flavonoids also improves blood flow, reduces blood clot formation, and improves blood fluidity.
An increase in F&Vs, regardless of flavonoid content in the groups as a whole, reduced vascular stiffness.
These data support recommendations to increase F&V intake to ≥ 6 portions daily, with additional benefit from F&Vs that are rich in flavonoids, particularly in men and especially in those with an increased risk of CVD.
Different flavonoids and other plant pigments provide
I also recommend taking some sort of flavonoid-rich extract such as green tea, Ginkgo biloba, blueberry, cherry, pine bark, or grape seed on a daily basis. And, of course, 1-2 ounce serving of dark chocolate per day is also something else I endorse.