Can Flavonoid-Rich Foods Protect Your Heart?

By Jane Hart, MD
Can Flavonoid-Rich Foods Protect Your Heart?: Main Image
Risk for heart and vascular disease such as stroke is directly tied to what people eat
Could one or two servings of berries a day help lower your risk for heart disease? A study in The American Journal of Clinical Nutrition suggests that people may get some extra heart protection if they eat a lot of foods rich in flavonoids (health-promoting compounds found in certain foods).

Flavonoids linked to healthier arteries

Risk for heart and vascular disease such as stroke is directly tied to what people eat and how well their arteries function. So it’s important that to eat well for healthy arteries!

In this study, researchers looked at the association between the amount of flavonoid-rich foods eaten and artery function. Specifically, 1,898 women (ages 18 to 75 years) recorded the types of foods they ate in food-frequency questionnaires. Researchers looked at the amount of flavonoids eaten and measured artery function. Four common anthocyanin-rich foods and beverages that consumed by participants were grapes, pears, wine, and berries such as strawberries and raspberries.

Compared with people who ate the least, study results suggest that anthocyanins and flavones may have a beneficial impact on artery function:

  • Central systolic blood pressure was lower in people who ate the highest amount of anthocyanins.
  • An indicator of artery function (pulse-wave velocity) was better in people who ate higher amounts of anthocyanins and flavones.

The study authors suggest that anthocyanins “could be incorporated into the diet by the consumption of 1 [to] 2 portions of berries daily and are, therefore, relevant for public health strategies to reduce cardiovascular disease risk.” They caution that a direct cause and effect cannot be proved by this observational study alone and add that their findings highlight the need for more research on flavonoid-rich foods that may help prevent disease.

Steps to reduce risk

A balanced diet rich in vitamins, minerals, and other nutrients is one essential part of preventing heart disease and stroke. Other actions you can take to lower your risk include:

  • Don’t smoke, overeat, or drink excess alcohol.
  • Do get regular exercise, maintain a healthy weight, and reduce the stress in your life.

Talk with a healthcare professional about a diet that is appropriate for you and with a doctor about preventive screening tests, such as checking cholesterol levels and blood pressure to detect and treat medical conditions early on.

(Am J Clin Nutr 2012;96:781–88)

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