Updated: Feb 17
A higher intake of flavonoid-rich foods such as red wine, berries, apples, pears, and tea can lower the blood pressure, a benefit partly explained by gut microbiota.
Flavonoids are phenolic compounds naturally found in plant-based foods, namely fruits and vegetables, tea, wine and so many others. Literature has found a tremendous amount of evidence regarding the health benefits of flavonoids consumption, ranging from antioxidant and anti-inflammatory and therefore, having a positive impact on the reduction of chronic diseases, including cardiovascular diseases and neurodegenerative disorders.
In a recent study coordinated by Prof Aedin Cassidy from the Institute for Global Food Security (IGFS) at Queen’s University Belfast, it was demonstrated that adults that consume flavonoid-rich foods display a clinical reduction in blood pressure when compared with their peers. The cardioprotective effect of flavonoids is due to the key role played by the gut microbiota.
The team of researchers of Queen’s University and Kiel University examined the link between eating flavonoids, blood pressure, and the gut microbiome. From the 904 adults involved in the study, where 57 per cent were men, it was asked for them to evaluate their food intake with a self-reported questionnaire. Then, their gut microbiome was evaluated, and their blood pressure was measured.
Research found that higher intakes of flavonoid-rich foods reduce blood pressure, results in greater microbial diversity and lower abundance of Parabacteroides – the predominant bacterial species within the gut. Additionally, the investigation unveiled that drinking 250ml of red wine a week, just under three small glasses, was associated with an average of 3.7mm Hg lower systolic blood pressure level, of which 15 per cent could be explained by the gut microbiome. This suggests that these microbes play a key role in metabolising flavonoids, enhancing their cardioprotective effects.
In the future, further investigation is needed to get a clear view of the high individual variability of flavonoid metabolism, which could explain why some people have greater cardiovascular protection benefits from flavonoid-rich foods than others.
What we eat plays a critical role in shaping our gut microbiome, so the effects of flavonoid-rich foods are achievable with simple changes to the daily diet says the lead researcher. So, bottoms up! Let’s drink 3 glasses of red wine a week and eat a handful of berries.
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