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Hypertension: bet on a diet rich in flavanols to lower blood pressure

Consuming foods rich in flavonoids, such as tea and cocoa, can help lower blood pressure, even in people with hypertension.

Eating plenty of foods that contain flavonols, and antioxidants found in some fruits, vegetables, tea, and cocoa, may benefit your blood pressure, according to research published in October 2020 in Scientific Reports.

The researchers analyzed data on blood pressure and cardiovascular disease, as well as urine test results, looking for biomarkers of flavan-3-ol, a substance that indicates the amount of flavanol in the diet, over 25,000 adults in the UK.

Systolic blood pressure, the “top number,” which indicates the pressure that blood exerts on the walls of the arteries when the heart beats, was about 1.9 millimeters of mercury (mmHg) lower in men and about 2.5 mm in women with the highest pressure. flavan-3-of intake compared to their counterparts with the lowest flavan-3-of intake. The study also found that blood pressure differences associated with a flavonoid-rich diet were more pronounced in older adults and people diagnosed with hypertension than in younger people with normal blood pressure.

This study shows for the first time that flavanols consumed as part of a normal diet are associated with lower blood pressure.

Advantages and disadvantages of this study model

One of the benefits of this study is that it used urine tests to estimate the number of flavonoids that people had in their diets. Many other studies looking at the health benefits of various eating habits rely instead on food diaries or surveys that don’t always give an accurate picture of how people eat. In these cases, people often report healthier eating habits than they do.

Another benefit of using biomarkers instead of self-reported dietary information is that the number of flavanols in a particular food or drink can vary. For example, there may be between 10 and 330 milligrams (mg) of flavanols in 100 grams (g) of tea.

The main limitation of the study is that the results of this study conducted in the UK, where tea is the main source of flavanols in the diet, may not reflect what would happen in other populations where people tend to focus on different foods and beverages.

Another limitation is that the researchers only looked at urine tests for flavonoid intake at one point in time, and it’s possible that dietary habits changed over time, in ways that could affect blood pressure or cardiovascular disease risk. the researchers point out.

What do other studies say about flavanols, diet, and blood pressure

Previous studies have found that flavanols may help reduce artery stiffness, cholesterol, blood pressure, and the risk of developing or dying from cardiovascular disease, according to a review published in June 2018 in Molecular Aspects of Medicine. This review notably established a link between the flavanols present in cocoa and tea and these heart health benefits. The blood pressure reduction seen with flavanols in the current study is comparable to what some previous research has found with two heart-healthy diets, the Mediterranean diet and the Dietary Approaches to Stop Hypertension (DASH) diet.

The Mediterranean diet emphasizes the consumption of fruits, vegetables, whole grains, fish, nuts, olive oil, and other healthy fats. She also advises consuming dairy in moderation and limiting red and processed meats. The DASH diet takes these ideas further, recommending the number of servings per week for different foods and limiting sodium intake.

A 2013 study published in BMC Medicine found that following a Mediterranean diet lowered diastolic blood pressure, the “bottom number,” which indicates the pressure blood exerts on artery walls when the heart pumps at rest between beats, 1.5mmHg. . This study, however, did not establish a link between the Mediterranean diet and systolic blood pressure.

An earlier study, published in the New England Journal of Medicine, found that when people tried to reduce their sodium intake to the lowest possible level, the DASH diet lowered systolic blood pressure more than other types of diet, 11.5 mmHg more the people. with hypertension and 7.1 mmHg more for people without hypertension. When people tried to reduce their sodium intake from a high level to a medium level, the DASH diet lowered systolic blood pressure by 2.1 mmHg.

A sustained reduction of 2 mmHg in blood pressure would have a large benefit at the population level. So from a public health perspective, that’s a significant number.

Which foods rich in flavonoids are best for lowering blood pressure?

Flavanols are part of a large family of compounds found in plants such as fruits, vegetables, beans, grains, and nuts. In foods, these compounds confer many health benefits, including reducing the risk of certain diseases, such as cardiovascular disease, metabolic syndrome, and certain types of cancer. They act as powerful antioxidants and anti-inflammatory agents.

To reap the benefits of flavanols from sources like cocoa and tea, it’s best to consume unprocessed forms without a lot of added sugar, cream, and other additives advise Heller. This is especially true for cocoa and chocolate. People who want to use a diet to lower blood pressure should consider increasing their intake of flavonoids as part of a healthy diet.


Flavan-3-of intake estimated by biomarkers is associated with lower blood pressure in a cross-sectional analysis at EPIC Norfolk

Recommending Flavanols and Procyanidins for Cardiovascular Health: Reviewed

Effect of the Mediterranean diet on blood pressure in the PREDIMED trial: results of a randomized controlled trial

Effects on blood pressure of reduced dietary sodium and the Dietary Approaches to Stop Hypertension (DASH) diet

* Presse Santé strives to transmit health knowledge in a language accessible to all. In NO CASE, the information provided can not replace the advice of a health professional.

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