Research on nearly 100,000 older U.S. adults finds those who get a moderate amount of certain plant compounds in their diets are less likely to die of heart disease or stroke.
The study, reported in the American Journal of Clinical Nutrition, found that participants who got the most flavonoids in their diets were less likely to die of heart disease or stroke over the next seven years than those who ate the least flavonoids.
Flavonoid compounds are found in a range of plant foods like some fruits and vegetables, nuts, soy, dark chocolate, tea and wine.
Previous research has shown they have benefits including fighting inflammation and acting as antioxidants, so they help protect body cells from damage that may lead to chronic diseases and cancer.
In the current study, the researchers divided participants into five groups according to the amount of flavonoids in their diets and found the one-fifth with the highest flavonoid intake — averaging about 20 weekly servings of fruits and 24 servings of vegetables — were 18 percent less likely to die of heart problems or stroke than the fifth with the lowest intake, which got about 11 servings of fruit and 18 servings of vegetables per week.
That difference is “modest, but still relevant,” lead researcher Marjorie L. McCullough, of the American Cancer Society in Atlanta, told Reuters, adding that because heart disease and strokes are so common, even a modest risk reduction can make a big difference.