For the most part, the health benefits attributed to these foods are the result of their incredible range of essential nutrients. But scientists are beginning to shift their focus from these essential nutrients onto a group of plant compounds called flavonoids.
Flavonoids have been extensively studied in the past for their potential anti-cancer, antioxidant and anti-inflammatory properties, but studies demonstrating these to be true in the face of heart disease-related and cancer-related mortality are scare and inadequate.
Recent research published in the Nature Communications journal affirms that the adequate consumption of flavonoid-rich foods, including apples, green tea, oranges, blueberries and broccoli, can reduce heart disease and cancer-related mortality risk.
These findings came about after an international team of scientists studied 56,048 participants of the Danish Diet, Cancer and Health cohort. Of the 55,801 cancer-free participants at the start of the cohort, 6,299 died of cancer over a 23-year period.
On the other hand, 4,065 of the 52,492 participants that did not have cardiovascular disease (CVD) prior died of the condition over the same period. The remaining 14,083 recorded deaths from the cohort are attributed to non-cancer and non-heart disease-related causes.
Upon analysis of the participants' diets, it appeared that a high intake of flavonoids corresponded to a reduced incidence of heart failure, ischemic heart disease, stroke and chronic obstructive pulmonary disease that later led to death.
In particular, the team found that participants that consumed 500 to 2,000 mg of flavonoids a day had a significantly reduced risk of all-cause mortality, cancer-related mortality and CVD-related mortality compared to those that ate less than 500 g of flavonoids a day.
Furthermore, reductions in the risk of cancer-related mortality and CVD-related mortality had been found to be more pronounced in current smokers than in non-smokers and former smokers, and in high alcohol consumers than in moderate alcohol consumers.
Nicola Bondonno, the lead author of the study and a postdoctoral researcher at Australia's Edith Cowan University, noted that their findings suggest eating flavonoid-rich foods can not only protect against cancer and CVD but also slash the risk of dying from these conditions.
She added that smokers and alcohol drinkers can also benefit more from increasing flavonoid intake on top of quitting smoking and cutting back on alcohol consumption. (Related: Trying to quit smoking? Acupuncture can help.)
Unfortunately, the team had been unable to expose the mechanisms behind the protective effects of flavonoids.
That being said, Bondonno speculates that the antioxidant and anti-inflammatory properties of flavonoids might have had a significant role in reducing the risk of CVD and cancer and slashing both CVD and cancer-related mortality risk.
Flavonoids can be found in a range of plant-based foods. Here is a quick run-through of the six flavonoid groups and food sources for each one:
Flavonoids are potent plant nutrients capable of protecting against chronic conditions like cancer and heart disease. Eat flavonoid-rich foods as part of a balanced diet to keep disease and premature mortality at bay.
Learn more about flavonoids and other plant nutrients at Phytonutrients.news.