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Scientists Suggest Flavanol-Enriched Food And Drinks To Protect Your Heart

Scientists Suggest Flavanol-Enriched Food And Drinks To Protect Your Heart

A new research suggests that consumption of flavanols can protect people from mental stress-induced cardiovascular diseases, including heart attacks.

Representative Image Source: Getty/ATU Images (L) Martin Barraud (R)

Hypertension and stress increase the risk of strokes and heart disease, which can be fatal especially because they are silent killers. One might not even be aware of their condition until it is too late. According to Medicinenet, one in every four adults in the USA suffer from high blood pressure but is unaware. Apart from being the number one cause of death in the country, hypertension can also damage the kidney, increase the risk of dementia and blindness. Therefore, it's better to take proper precautions right from the beginning. Now, new research has revealed how the consumption of flavanols can protect people from mental stress-induced cardiovascular diseases, including heart attacks, strokes, and thrombosis. 

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In the latest study, researchers at the University of Birmingham found that blood vessels function better during mental stress when people consume a cocoa drink containing high levels of flavanols instead of one that is not enriched in flavanol. According to Good News Network, flavanols are a group of molecules that naturally occur in many fruit and vegetable, and a UK research team from the University of Birmingham focused their study on the effects of cocoa flavanols on stress-induced changes on vascular function. The findings were then published in Nutrients.

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Endothelium, a thin membrane of cells that line blood vessels and the hearts, helps reduce risks of diabetes, heart disease, stroke, tumor growth, peripheral vascular disease, kidney failure, thrombosis, and severe viral infections when it's functioning efficiently. When we are mentally stressed, our blood vessels are impacted negatively and that's where the flavanols come in. Lead author Dr. Catarina Rendeiro explained, "We found that drinking flavanol-rich cocoa can be an effective dietary strategy to reduce temporary impairments in endothelial function following mental stress and also improve blood flow during stressful episodes." 

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Rendeiro from the University of Birmingham’s School of Sport, Exercise and Rehabilitation Sciences continued, "Flavanols are extremely common in a wide range of fruit and vegetables. By utilizing the known cardiovascular benefits of these compounds during periods of acute vascular vulnerability (such as stress) we can offer improved guidance to people about how to make the most of their dietary choices during stressful periods." In the due course of the study conducted by postgraduate student Rosalind Baynham, a random group of healthy men was given a high-flavanol cocoa beverage just 90 minutes before completing an eight-minute mental stress task. 

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The blood flow in the forearm and cardiovascular activity of the men during the stress test and rest period was measured. The functioning of their blood vessels was assessed for up to 90 minutes post the strenuous task. It was later found that the participants who drank high-flavanol cocoa had less impaired blood vessel function. The experts also discovered that flavanols actually improved their blood flow during the period of stress. "Our findings are significant for everyday diet, given that the daily dosage administered could be achieved by consuming a variety of foods rich in flavanols—particularly apples, black grapes, blackberries, cherries, raspberries, pears, pulses, green tea, and unprocessed cocoa. This has important implications for measures to protect the blood vessels of those individuals who are more vulnerable to the effects of mental stress," said Dr. Rendeiro. Maybe it is time for us to include more berries, tea, and good-quality cocoa powder into our diet to life a healthy lifestyle.

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