Flavonoid-rich foods may have a positive effect on blood pressure levels, though according to new research, the secret to how exactly these foods affect cardiovascular health lies in the gut.
A study published in Hypertension examined the relationship between flavonoid-rich food intake and the gut microbiome, which is the collection of healthy, beneficial bacteria in the gut that help digest food and promote healthy digestion. Flavonoids are chemicals often found in plant-based foods. Given their antioxidative properties, research suggests they can have beneficial health properties, particularly for cardiovascular health. There are several types of flavonoids that have different health benefits, such as flavonols (known for their antioxidant properties) and flavones (known for their anti-inflammation properties). Foods that have particularly high concentrations of these chemical compounds include berries, chocolate, red wine, and certain types of tea.
However, researchers noted that it’s not just about the foods we eat, but how our body processes and responds to these foods during digestion. They noted the gut microbiome may play a key role in understanding why some people take more benefit from these foods than others. The gut microbiome can vary greatly from person to person, which means not everyone responds to flavonoids in the same way.
To better understand the connection between gut health and flavonoid intake, researchers gathered self-reported food intake questionnaires and stool samples from about 900 participants. The questionnaires were used to determine the amount and frequency of flavonoid-rich foods that participants consumed, while stool samples were used to gather information about participants’ gut microbiome. Researchers analyzed this data to gather detailed insight into the connection between gut microbiomes, flavonoid intake, and cardiovascular health.
Key findings from the study suggested that participants with the highest intake of flavonoid-rich foods had both lower levels of systolic blood pressure and a more diverse gut microbiome. The study lead investigator Aedín Cassidy suggested that because of these findings, “a better understanding of the highly individual variability of flavonoid metabolism could very well explain why some people have greater cardiovascular protection benefits from flavonoid-rich foods than others," indicating a need for further research.
The research team noted that future research should focus on the role that other lifestyle and diet habits have on cardiovascular health to more clearly determine any link between flavonoid intake and health outcomes.