Diets high in certain plant chemicals found to lower blood pressure

Diets high in a certain type of plant chemicals may be an effective way to reduce one's blood pressure, at least according to a new study from the University of Reading. These chemicals, which are called flavanols, are found in a huge variety of plant foods like berries, teas, and even red wine and chocolate. The results were based on data from more than 25,000 people in the UK.

Flavanols have been studied extensively and linked to a variety of health benefits, including everything from helping support cognitive function to reducing one's risk of developing heart disease. Likewise, some polyphenols like flavanols have been found to help support healthy blood pressure, the subject of this latest study.

Based on an analysis of more than 25,000 individuals' diets in the UK, the researchers found that those who ate the greatest amount of flavanols had lower blood pressure than those who consumed the lowest quantity of flavanols — the blood pressure difference between these two was between 2 and 4 mmHg.

According to the researchers, this difference was similar to the blood pressure changes observed in people who follow the heart-healthy DASH diet and the Mediterranean diet, both of which are recommended to at-risk individuals as a way to help protect their cardiovascular health.

The study's lead Professor Gunter Kuhnle explained:

We are delighted to see that in our study, there was also a meaningful and significant association between flavanol consumption and lower blood pressure. What this study gives us is an objective finding about the association between flavanols – found in tea and some fruits – and blood pressure. This research confirms the results from previous dietary intervention studies and shows that the same results can be achieved with a habitual diet rich in flavanols. In the British diet, the main sources are tea, cocoa, apples and berries.