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Flavonoids are compounds found in many foods, including fruits, vegetables, legumes, grain fiber such as in bran, tea, wine, nuts, seeds, herbs, and spices. Many flavonoids are strong antioxidants, which are believed to prevent atherosclerosis by reducing damage to the cells that line the blood vessels. Some flavonoids have other beneficial properties, including anti-inflammatory effects and clot prevention.
The report used data from the Iowa Women’s Health Study, in which more than 34,000 postmenopausal women between 55 and 69 years old answered questionnaires about diet and other factors related to cardiac risk and stroke risk.
The women’s diets were analyzed for total flavonoid content as well as for seven specific types of flavonoids:
Anthocyanidins—found in blueberries, raspberries, and red wine
Flavanones—found in oranges, grapefruit, and lemons
Flavones—found in parsley and celery
The women whose diets contained high amounts of anthocyanidins were less likely to die from cardiovascular diseases, coronary heart disease, and from any other cause than those who got little or didn’t get any. Flavanone intake was linked to lower risk of death due to coronary heart disease, and flavone intake to lower risk of death for any reason.
Specific foods reduced risk of death from heart disease, stroke, and all causes. Try some of the following suggestions to get more of these foods in your diet:
Eating bran, apples, pears, strawberries, red wine, and chocolate protected the women against death from cardiovascular disease.
Eating apples, pears, red wine, and grapefruit protected them against death from coronary heart disease.
Adding bran to food prevented death from stroke.
Recipes to try—Granola on the Go
Chocolate, though the effect was small, was found to prevent cardiovascular disease-related deaths.
The study’s authors speculated that, as information about food make-up becomes more precise, we will learn more about the effects of specific food compounds on health and disease. In the meantime, tasty ways to work in more flavonoids abound. Enjoy!
(Am J Public Health 2006;96:1815–20)