Tea and cocoa lovers rejoice! Flavanol-rich diets help lower blood pressure

READING, United Kingdom — From losing weight to cutting stressing, there are plenty of methods doctors recommend to lower blood pressure. A new study says another way patients can cut their risk for hypertension is by tweaking their diet. Researchers in the United Kingdom find diets high in flavanols have a strong link to lowering blood pressure.

Flavonols are a subgroup of flavonoids, which are naturally occurring compounds in plants. Flavanol-rich foods include apples, berries, cocoa, and drinks like red wine and tea.

The British study examined the diets of over 25,000 people, comparing what each participant ate with their blood pressure. The results reveal people in the top 10 percent in terms of flavanol intake had blood pressures between 2 and 4 mmHg lower than those in the bottom 10 percent.

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

‘Meaningful and significant’ link between flavanol consumption, blood pressure

Study authors say their findings provide solid evidence of flavanol’s benefits because it relies on science instead of patient reports. Each of the 25,618 participants had their flavanol intake measured using nutritional biomarkers. These indicators live in the blood and reveal a person’s dietary intake, metabolism, and nutritional status. This differs from many dietary studies which rely on the patient providing an accurate picture of their diet.

The 2 and 4 mmHg drop in blood pressure between the highest and lowest flavanol diets is comparable to switching to a Mediterranean diet, according to the researchers. Participants with hypertension experienced the biggest impact of eating a high-flavanol diet.

“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. We are delighted to see that in our study, there was also a meaningful and significant association between flavanol consumption and lower blood pressure,” study leader Prof. Gunter Kuhnle from the University of Reading says.

“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.”

The study appears in the journal Scientific Reports.

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