Understanding the health benefits of flavanols
It is no secret that if you eat right you feel better and last longer. Nutrition - our daily diet - is a major lifestyle factor, greatly influencing human health and disease. For example, medical evidence has long shown that diets rich in plant-based foods can decrease the risk of cardiovascular diseases.
One particular class of compounds, called flavanols has been avidly investigated in recent years. Found in certain teas, fruits, and cocoa products, these substances have shown a potential to deliver various health benefits, including better vascular function, decreased blood pressure and improved immune responses.
The EU-funded project FLAVIOLA ('Targeted delivery of dietary flavanols for optimal human cell function: Effect on cardiovascular health') was aimed at advancing our knowledge of the delivery, function, and health benefits of dietary flavanols.
FLAVIOLA researchers say their research has provided a much clearer understanding of the cardiovascular and circulatory health benefits of flavanols - a benefit for public health.
Recent innovations in analytics, chemistry, food processing technology, and non-invasive cardiovascular function assessments have helped researchers study flavanols more impactful and comprehensively, providing advances that support the development of future applications, including potential dietary recommendations.
Multidisciplinary research carried out under the project has shed new light on the types and amounts of flavanols in cocoa, as well as the effects of food processing and manufacturing on the flavanol content of certain food products.
These novel findings have also advanced our understanding of what happens to flavanols in the human body following consumption, and provided insights into the mechanisms of action that underlie the biological effects of this plant-derived nutrient.
FLAVIOLA researchers have also compiled a comprehensive database of the amounts and types of flavanols consumed in 14 countries across the European Union. This will enable better interpretation of dietary intervention studies and clearer associations between flavanol consumption and health and disease.
The project received around EUR 3 million in EU funding. It was coordinated by the Heinrich-Heine University in Düsseldorf, and included researchers from France, Switzerland, the Netherlands, Sweden, the UK and Belgium. The work was completed in February 2013.