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Flavanol-Rich Diet

Consuming a high-flavanol diet was associated with a significantly lower systolic and diastolic blood pressure and was inversely associated with blood lipids in a new study published in the journal Scientific Reports.

Flavanols are a large group of flavonoids, which include catechin, epicatechin, epigallocatechin, epicatechin gallate and epigallocatechin gallate. They are found in teas, cocoa, fava beans, red wine, and many fruits, particularly in the skins of grapes, apples, and blueberries. Image credit: Marijana.

Flavanols are a large group of flavonoids, which include catechin, epicatechin, epigallocatechin, epicatechin gallate and epigallocatechin gallate. They are found in teas, cocoa, fava beans, red wine, and many fruits, particularly in the skins of grapes, apples, and blueberries. Image credit: Marijana.

“Previous studies of large populations have always relied on self-reported data to draw conclusions, but this is the first epidemiological study of this scale to objectively investigate the association between a specific bioactive compound and health,” said Professor Gunter Kuhnle, a nutritionist in the Department of Food and Nutritional Sciences at the University of Reading.

“We are delighted to see that in our study, there was also a meaningful and significant association between flavanol consumption and lower blood pressure.”

“What this study gives us is an objective finding about the association between flavanols — found in tea and some fruits — and blood pressure.”

“This research confirms the results from previous dietary intervention studies and shows that the same results can be achieved with a habitual diet rich in flavanols. In the British diet, the main sources are tea, cocoa, apples and berries.”

In the study, Professor Kuhnle and colleagues investigated cross-sectional associations between biomarker-estimated flavanol intake and blood pressure and other cardiovascular disease risk markers.

They analyzed data from 25,618 participants of the European Prospective Investigation into Cancer (EPIC) Norfolk cohort.

The difference in blood pressure between those with the lowest 10% of flavanol intake and those with the highest 10% of intake was between 2 and 4 mmHg.

This is comparable to meaningful changes in blood pressure observed in those following a Mediterranean diet or Dietary Approaches to Stop Hypertension (DASH) diet.

Notably, the effect was more pronounced in participants with hypertension.

“This study adds key insights to a growing body of evidence supporting the benefits of dietary flavanols in health and nutrition,” said co-author Dr. Hagen Schroeter, Chief Science Officer at Mars Edge.

“But, perhaps even more exciting was the opportunity to apply objective biomarkers of flavanol intake at a large scale.”

“This enabled the team to avoid the significant limitations that come with past approaches which rely on estimating intake based on self-reported food consumption data and the shortcomings of current food composition databases.”

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J.I. Ottaviani et al. 2020. Biomarker-estimated flavan-3-ol intake is associated with lower blood pressure in cross-sectional analysis in EPIC Norfolk. Sci Rep 10, 17964; doi: 10.1038/s41598-020-74863-7

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