Flavonoid-rich foods such as apples and teamay help combat heart disease and cancer, as per a recent study from Edith Cowan University (ECU). This work was conducted by researchers from ECU’s School of Medical and Health Sciences, who analyzed data from the Danish Diet Cancer and Health cohort which assessed the diets of over 53,000 individuals over 23 years. Their findings were published on August 13 in Nature Communications.
The research team, led by ECU’s Dr. Nicola Bondonno, found that those who consumed moderate to high amounts of foods rich in flavonoids were less likely to experience mortality from cancer or heart disease. These flavonoid compounds are typically found in plant-based foods and drinks and account for a portion of the vivid colors seen in fruits and vegetables.
Bondonno and colleagues found that the risk for death was lower in those who consumed flavonoid-rich foods and that this effect was most pronounced in those with chronic disease risk. Specifically, those who were at high risk due to cigarette smoking and consumption of over two alcoholic beverages a day saw the greatest drop in mortality from eating flavonoids.
“These findings are important as they highlight the potential to prevent cancer and heart disease by encouraging the consumption of flavonoid-rich foods, particularly in people at high risk of these chronic diseases,” she explained.
Bondonno noted that simply eating more flavonoids does not negate the effects of smoking and drinking, claiming that “flavonoid consumption does not counteract all of the increased risk of death caused by smoking and high alcohol consumption.” She added that “the best thing to do for your health is to quit smoking and cut down on alcohol.”
Acknowledging that these lifestyle changes are often easier said than done, she claims that flavonoid consumption could be a good way to decrease the risk factors associated with these activities as one is attempting to quit.
Optimal Flavonoid Consumption
Participants in the study who consumed roughly 500mg of flavonoids every day displayed the lowest risk of cancer or cardiovascular-associated fatality.
“It’s important to consume a variety of different flavonoid compounds found in different plant-based food and drink,” Bondonno said. “This is easily achievable through the diet: one cup of tea, one apple, one orange, 100g of blueberries, and 100g of broccoli would provide a wide range of flavonoid compounds and over 500mg of total flavonoids”.
Though this study found a strong correlation between dietary flavonoid concentration and reduced risk of mortality, Bondonno said that the exact mechanism by which the flavonoids provide benefit is unknown. She theorizes that this mechanism is multifaceted but involves decreasing inflammation.
“Alcohol consumption and smoking both increase inflammation and damage blood vessels, which can increase the risk of a range of diseases,” she said. “Flavonoids have been shown to be anti-inflammatory and improve blood vessel function, which may explain why they are associated with a lower risk of death from heart disease and cancer.”
Going forward, the researchers plan to evaluate which specific types of cardiovascular diseases and cancers are most prevented by the flavonoids.