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Eating More Foods Rich in Polyphenols May Help Protect Men Against Heart Attack, Stroke

Cardiovascular issues are a leading killer in the United States — but what you eat may help protect against these events. A recent Harvard study suggests that eating more foods rich in the polyphenols flavanones and anthocyanins may help reduce the risk of stroke and heart attack in men.

Participants in the study included 43,880 health men who took part in the Health Professionals Follow-Up Study. Over the 24-year follow-up period, 4,046 heart attacks and 1,572 strokes occurred within the study group.

After examining the dietary intake of polyphenols and the stroke and heart attack data, the researchers found no link between anthocyanin intake and stroke or total or fatal heart attack. However, they did findt hat the highest intakes of anthocyanin were associated with a 14% lower risk of non-fatal heart attack. The risk reduction was highest in men with normal blood pressure.

They also found that the highest average intakes of flavanones were associated with a 22% lower risk of ischemic stroke. No association was found between flavanone intake and a lower risk of heart attack or total stroke.

Researchers from the University of East Anglia in the UK and Harvard T.H. Chan School of Public Health conducted the study. It was published online ahead of print on August 3, 2016, in The American Journal of Clinical Nutrition.

Flavonones are naturally occurring antioxidants which have previously been shown to decrease inflammation, protect our DNA from damage, and improve heart and brain health by increasing blood flow.

Previous studies have shown that anthocyanins protect the body from damage by free radicals, which may help reduce the risk of some chronic diseases such as heart disease and cancer. Anthocyanins can be found in red, blue, or purple fruits and vegetables. Blueberries, cranberries and acai have particularly high levels.

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