Increased consumption of flavonoids, a group of molecules found naturally in many fruits and vegetables, could protect people from mental stress-induced cardiovascular events such as strokes, heart disease and thrombosis, according to new research.
In their study, researchers from the University of Birmingham found that blood vessels could function better during mental stress when people were given a cocoa drink containing high levels of flavonoids than when they drank a flavonoid-free fortified drink.
A thin membrane of cells that lines the heart and blood vessels, when functioning efficiently, the endothelium helps reduce the risk of peripheral vascular disease, stroke, heart disease, diabetes, kidney failure, tumor growth, thrombosis, and infectious diseases. serious virals. We know that mental stress can have a negative effect on blood vessel function.
A UK research team from the University of Birmingham examined the effects of cocoa flavonoids on stress-induced changes in vascular function, publishing their findings in Nutrients.
Lead author, Dr. Catarina Rendeiro, from The School of Sport, Exercise and Rehabilitation Sciences at the University of Birmingham, explains: “We found that drinking flavanol-rich cocoa can be an effective dietary strategy to reduce temporary deficits in endothelial function after mental stress and also improve blood flow during stressful episodes.”
“Flavonoids are extremely common in a wide range of fruits and vegetables. By utilizing the known cardiovascular benefits of these compounds during periods of acute vascular vulnerability (such as stress), we can provide better guidance to people on how to make the most of their dietary choices during stressful periods. “
In a randomized study, conducted by graduate student Rosalind Baynham, a group of healthy men drank a high-flavanol cocoa drink 90 minutes before completing an eight-minute mental stress task.
The researchers measured forearm blood flow and cardiovascular activity at rest and during stress and assessed blood vessel function for up to 90 minutes after stress, finding that blood vessel function was less affected when participants drank cocoa with high content of flavanol. The researchers also found that flavonoids improve blood flow during stress.
Stress is very common in today’s society and has been linked to physical and psychological health. Mental stress induces immediate increases in heart rate and blood pressure in healthy adults and also leads to temporary disturbances in the function of the arteries even after the stress episode has ceased.
Single episodes of stress have been shown to increase the risk of acute cardiovascular events, and the impact of stress on blood vessels has been suggested to contribute to these stress-induced cardiovascular events. In fact, previous research by Dr. Jet Veldhuijzen van Zanten, co-investigator of this study, has shown that people at risk for cardiovascular disease show poorer vascular responses to acute stress.
“Our findings are important for the daily diet, since the daily dose administered could be achieved by consuming a variety of foods rich in flavonoids, in particular apples, black grapes, blackberries, cherries, raspberries, pears, legumes, green tea and raw cocoa. . . This has important implications for the blood vessel protection measures of those individuals most vulnerable to the effects of mental stress, ”commented Dr. Rendeiro.
It seems that now is as good a time as any to relax and bring a little more good quality berries, tea, and cocoa powder into our lives.