Collaborative research by Mars, Incorporated and the University of California, Davis has provided important new insights into the distinct roles of flavanols and procyanidins in the human body. Recently published online in the American Journal of Clinical Nutrition, the findings significantly advance understanding of how these phytonutrients may work in the body to exert cardiovascular benefits. In ways not previously possible, the researchers were able to gain novel insights that further our understanding of the metabolic fate of procyanidins, and highlight the need for more careful discrimination between flavanols and procyanidins when examining the health benefits of foods. Taken together, these findings may enable stronger and clearer associations between health and the intake of specific food components, and a more comprehensive understanding of the cardiovascular health benefits of flavanols and procyanidins.
Flavanols and procyanidins are sub-classes of a group of natural compounds called flavonoids. A growing body of evidence demonstrates that foods rich in flavanols and procyanidins, such as cocoa, can have a positive impact on blood vessel function and cardiovascular health. To understand how the flavanols and procyanidins present in certain foods may exert their cardiovascular effects, it is crucial to assess what happens to these compounds in the body following consumption. Previous studies have demonstrated that flavanols are absorbed, enter the body, and directly mediate improvements in cardiovascular function. In contrast, procyanidins have been shown to be poorly absorbed or not at all and evidence for a direct effect of procyanidins on blood vessel function is therefore limited. Nevertheless, as flavanols are the structural building blocks of procyanidins, it has been proposed that digestive processes in the gut may cause the break-down of procyanidins into flavanols, which may subsequently be absorbed into the body. If correct,
|Contact: Elizabeth Willett |