An article published online on January 4, 2012 in the American Journal of Clinical Nutrition reveals a lower risk of dying of cardiovascular disease among those who consume more flavonoids: plant-based phytochemicals that may be responsible in part for the reduced risk of heart disease observed among those who consume a diet that contains high amounts of vegetables, fruit and other plant foods.
American Cancer Society and Tufts University researchers evaluated data from 38,180 men and 60,289 women who had no history of heart disease upon enrollment in the Cancer Prevention Study II Nutrition in 1999. Dietary questionnaire responses were analyzed for the intake of seven classes of flavonoids, including flavan-3-ols, flavanones, flavones, flavonols, isoflavones, anthocyanidins and proanthocyanidins from a variety of plant foods. The subjects were followed for seven years, during which 1,589 men and 1,182 women died from cardiovascular disease.
Subjects whose total flavonoid intake was among the top one-fifth of participants had an 18 percent lower risk of dying from cardiovascular disease compared to those whose intake was among the lowest fifth. Among classes of flavonoids, increased intake of flavon-3-ols, flavones, flavonols, anthocyanidins and proanthocyanidins were associated with a reduction in the risk of fatal cardiovascular disease. For men, the protective effect of increased total flavonoids was greater for stroke than for heart disease.
Flavonoids' possible cardioprotective mechanisms involve antioxidant, anti-inflammatory and vascular effects. "Our findings indicate that total flavonoids and several classes, especially flavones, are associated with lower risks of fatal cardiovascular disease," the authors write. "The finding that benefits of flavonoid consumption were realized at relatively low intake thresholds deserves further examination. If these findings are replicated, recommendations for food sources rich in specific flavonoids should be considered for cardiovascular disease risk reduction."
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