“Our gut microbiome plays a key role in metabolizing flavonoids to enhance their cardioprotective effects,” says Aedín Cassidy, Ph.D., lead investigator on the study and professor in nutrition and preventive medicine at the Institute for Global Food Security at Queen’s University in Belfast. And this latest study is evidence that healthy blood pressure levels can be positively affected by small, obtainable changes in our daily nutrition.
As mentioned above, flavonoids are found naturally in plant foods, but especially in berries, apples, pears, tea, chocolate, and wine. For this study, researchers considered the food intake, gut microbiome, and blood pressure levels of a group of just over 900 participants aged 25 to 82—while also taking into account other clinical and molecular phenotyping.
They found that participants who had the highest flavonoid intake—measured by their intake of foods such as berries, red wine, apples, and pears—had lower (healthier) systolic blood pressure and a more diverse gut microbiome than those who did not consume as many flavonoid-rich foods. The researchers attribute at least 15% of the link between flavonoids and blood pressure to the health of the gut microbiome, specifically by that diversity of bacteria they found.
“Our findings indicate future trials should look at participants according to metabolic profile in order to more accurately study the roles of metabolism and the gut microbiome in regulating the effects of flavonoids on blood pressure,” suggested Cassidy.