Heart disease and stroke will account for more than a third of all deaths annually, a number that continues to rise as dietary and lifestyle factors that contribute to these illnesses are made worse through a never ending barrage of advertising and marketing sleight of hand. Research published in the American Journal of Clinical Nutrition has found that consuming moderate amounts of food containing health promoting flavonoids can provide antioxidant support to help lower the risk of heart attack or stroke by close to twenty percent.
The compounds found in a wide range of plant foods, including many fruits, vegetables, nuts, dark chocolate, tea and red wine fights systemic inflammation and protects the body’s cellular structures from damage that causes chronic disease. Six to ten servings of vegetables and fruit each day provides a defensive shield against heart disease and stroke.
Flavonoids from Fresh Vegetables and Fruits Lower Vascular Disease Risk
To conduct the study, researchers analyzed the dietary intake of nearly 100,000 older adults (average age 70 years) from the US and divided them into five groups based on their reported flavonoid consumption. The participants were tracked for a period of seven years and assessed for associations between total flavonoid ingestion, seven specific flavonoid classes and development of heart disease or cardiovascular mortality.
After compiling the data, scientists determined that those individuals with the highest consumption of flavonoids (top fifth) were eighteen percent less likely to die of heart disease or stroke compared to those eating the lowest amount of flavonoids. Any intervention that can lower the risk of either of these chronic and potentially fatal diseases by close to twenty percent should be considered relevant and can make a big difference when considered as part of a population level analysis.
Flavonoids Lower Heart Disease Risk by Lowering Inflammation and Providing Antioxidant Support
The lead researcher from the American Cancer Society, Marjorie L. McCullough commented “Flavonoid-rich foods also contain many other healthful nutrients, so it's hard to know whether the compounds, themselves, deserve all the credit for the lower cardiovascular risks.” A wealth of prior studies have found that a diet rich in fresh vegetables and fruits is beneficial to vascular health, in part due to the myriad of flavonoid compounds and also due to the high content of B vitamins and other carotenoids known to lower disease risk.
It is important to note that the people in the top fifth of participants consumed 24 servings of vegetables and 20 servings of fruits each week, demonstrating that large quantities are not necessary for maximum benefits. McCullough concluded “So even adding one serving of flavonoid-rich food a day could be beneficial.” Although this study did not make specific note of sugar and processed food consumption, these foods are classified as ‘anti-nutrients’ and negate the positive benefits of flavonoids and other plant-based nutrients to lower the risk of heart disease and stroke.