Health experts always recommend that people eat a proper diet. Diets high in fiber and low in fat and sugar may help lower the risk of certain diseases. And flavanols, a chemical compound most common in apples, berries, cocoa and tea, can help people with high blood pressure, according to a new study. (Consult your doctor about adding flavanol-rich food to your diet.)

University of Reading researchers studied the diets of over 25,000 people in Norfolk, UK. They looked at the impact of the foods the participants ate on their blood pressure. The study used biomarkers to objectively measure the presence of flavanols

in the diet, instead of relying on participants to self-report what they ate. (Biomarkers are signs, from pulse rate to chemicals in the urine or blood that indicate a person’s medical condition.) In this study, the biomarkers revealed a number of things, including a person’s dietary intake and metabolism.

The team found that those who consumed more flavanol-rich food had lower blood pressure. The association between flavanol-rich food and lower blood pressure was similar to that observed in people on the Mediterranean diet (a diet low in red meat, sugar and saturated fat and high in produce, nuts and other healthy foods) or the DASH sodium trial, with moderate sodium consumption.

The effect of flavanols was greater in people with higher blood pressure. This suggested that eating more flavanols, which are most present in fruits, might lower the overall risk of cardiovascular diseases. The findings, published in Scientific Reports, only showed the impact on blood pressure.

Flavanol Supplementation

Previous research had investigated if flavanols could help lower the risk of some illnesses. Scientists performed reviews and other studies to establish different connections. So, what are the other benefits?

One paper in the Sports Medicine journal examined the effect of the flavanol in cocoa on exercise. Investigators looked at cocoa flavanols in over a dozen studies. They analyzed three amounts: a one-time serving, an almost daily serving and a daily serving, and found little evidence that cocoa flavanols affect exercise-related inflammation and platelet activation.

However, consumption of a one-time serving did help manage blood pressure in obese participants during exercise. Consumption of either a one-time serving or an almost daily serving changed carbohydrate and fat metabolism during exercise. Daily consumption of cocoa flavanol helped energy levels among untrained participants. Investigators agreed that cocoa flavanols might help with blood pressure and stress from exercise. Yet, the findings could not support a relationship between flavanols and exercise performance.

Changing Diet

Always consult with your doctor before changing your diet. Increasing or decreasing a food type may affect your overall health. Your doctor can suggest optimal changes in your diet based on your age, medical history, pre-existing conditions and other factors. They can also answer questions like, should you eat more flavanols?

One concern about flavanol is the fact that fruit -- a main source of the compound and an essential part of your daily diet – contains a lot of sugar. How much sugar in fruits can you take?

An article in 2017 showed the findings of studies that assessed fruit intake in different cases:

  • People with type 2 diabetes may eat fruits to help manage blood pressure.
  • High intake of fruits is unlikely to cause adverse events. But mixing them with other foods may lead to problems.
  • About 20 servings of fruits per day or 200 grams of fructose a day resulted in zero adverse effects.

Ralph Chen is an enthusiast of medical topics and advanced technologies. When not writing, he spends time playing popular PC games.