Flavonoids and cardiovascular health

Hello everyone! My name is Jessica Bertrand and I am currently enrolled in my fourth semester of Applied Human Nutrition at the University of Guelph. As well, I have previously graduated with a diploma in Food and Nutrition Management at Canadore College in North Bay. Upon receiving my undergraduate degree I hope to work in the eating disorder sector as a Registered Dietitian.

Recently, researchers explored how the food we eat, and more specifically the amount of flavonoids (a group of plant compounds associated with health benefits) relates to cardiovascular health. Interestingly, they found that the flavonoid sub-group – anthocyanins – was connected to lower blood pressure.

The cross sectional study included 1898 healthy female twins between the ages of 18-75 years old. The females were all classified as overweight and 54% were considered moderately active (and 23% active, 23% inactive). Participants’ answers to a food frequency questionnaire were used to calculate their intake of flavonoids using the updated USDA food composition website (http://ndb.nal.usda.gov). The main source of flavonoids was tea, accounting for 80%. However, of the six subclasses of flavonoids (flavones, anthocyanins, flavan-3-ols, polymers, flavonols, and flavones) only anthocyanin and flavones were found to be great contributors to the total flavonoid intake. Main contributors of intake included grapes with 20%, pears with 23%, wine with 22% and berries with 13%.

The researchers found that intake of anthocyanins was related to a significantly lower systolic blood pressure and that flavones were associated with lower arterial stiffness, which is a measure of how ‘elastic’ our arteries are. However, significant results were not found among other subclasses or flavonoids as a whole.

The researchers claimed that the results could be of great health importance since the intakes of flavonoids could be easily achieved through habitual diet. Specifically, by consuming even 1-2 portions of berries per day could contribute to reduced risk of cardiovascular disease.

For more information about this research, take a look at the article published in the American Journal of Clinical Nutriton.

Ailsa, A., et al. “Higher Anthocyanin Intake is Associated with Lower Arterial Stiffness and Central Blood Pressure in Women.” The American Journal of Clinical Nutrition 96.4 (2012): 781-8. Biological Sciences. Web. 6 Oct. 2012.