An apple a day keeps the doctor away? New research published in Nature Communications suggests that there might be some truth to that old saying. But it’s not just apples – all flavonoid-rich foods such as plant-based foods and drinks (another cuppa tea, please!) could help prevent cancer and heart disease, the study says – especially for smokers and heavy drinkers.
The study comes from Edith Cowan University as a collaboration between researchers from the Herlev & Gentofte University Hospital, Aarhus University, as well as the Danish Cancer Society Research Centre, Aalborg University Hospital, the Universities of Western Australia and the International Agency for Research on Cancer. To arrive at its findings, the study looked at data from the Danish Diet, Cancer and Health cohort that assessed the diets of 53,048 Danes over 23 years.
"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," said lead researcher Dr. Nicola Bondonno, referring to diseases brought on by smoking and consuming more than two standard alcoholic drinks a day.
"But it's also important to note that flavonoid consumption does not counteract all of the increased risk of death caused by smoking and high alcohol consumption. By far the best thing to do for your health is to quit smoking and cut down on alcohol.
"We know that these kind of lifestyle changes can be very challenging, so encouraging flavonoid consumption might be a novel way to alleviate the increased risk, while also encouraging people to quit smoking and reduce their alcohol intake."
Flavonoids act as anti-inflammatory compounds and also have been shown to improve blood vessel function. The researchers recommend consuming approximately 500mg of flavonoids daily to get the most benefit out of the compounds. What does 500 mg of flavonoids look like on your plate? Dr. Bondonno elaborates:
"It's important to consume a variety of different flavonoid compounds found in different plant-based food and drink. 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."