RODALE NEWS, EMMAUS, PA—Here's a great reason fill your plate with deeply colored veggies and fruits (and to help yourself to some tea and dark chocolate). A team of UK and U.S. researchers investigating the connection between blood pressure and diet have found a link between flavonoid intake and reduced risk for high blood pressure in both men and women. The study, published this month in The American Journal of Clinical Nutrition, analyzed data from the Nurses’ Health Study (both NHS I and NHS II) as well as the Health Professionals Follow-Up Study (HPFS). During 14 years of follow-up, participants with the highest levels of anthocyanin intake (predominantly from blueberries and strawberries) had an 8 percent reduction in risk of hypertension. High consumption of another flavone, apigenin, resulted in a 5 percent reduction in risk of hypertension, while a 6 percent reduction in risk was observed with high consumption of the flavan-3-ol catechin (1). This is the first population-based study to examine the association between all the different flavonoid subclasses and blood pressure.
Study author Aedin Cassidy, PhD, of the School of Medicine, University of East Anglia, Norwich, UK, says that it’s great news that an achievable dietary intake of some flavonoids may prevent hypertension. “Flavonoids are readily incorporated into the diet, as they are present in many commonly consumed foods," she says. Blueberries were the richest source in this study but, she says, "Other rich sources of anthocyanins include black currants, blood oranges, eggplants, and raspberries.”
Cassidy and her fellow researchers found greater effects in younger study participants, and that eating more than 1 serving of blueberries a week was associated with a 10 percent reduction in risk. But the researchers’ findings create incentive to include a variety of foods, containing all the subgroups of flavonoids, when planning your meals. In this study, tea was the main contributor to the total flavonoid intake, with apples, orange juice, and strawberries as other significant contributors. Flavan-3-ols were predominantly consumed from tea, while blueberries and strawberries were the main sources of anthocyanins, and citrus fruit was the main contributor to flavanone and flavone intakes.