Background/objectives: To categorize healthy food groups into categories of low-antioxidant (LAC) or high-antioxidant vitamins and phytochemicals content (HAC) and comparatively associate them with metabolic risk factors for cardiovascular disease (CVD).
Subjects/methods: A total of 6879 women (55±12 years) and 6892 men (56 ± 12 years) were analyzed from the Moli-sani cohort, randomly recruited from the general population. The European Prospective Investigation into Cancer and Nutrition Food Frequency Questionnaire was used for dietary assessment. The antioxidant content of each food group was evaluated using Istituto Nazionale di Ricerca per gli Alimenti e la Nutrizione and United States Department of Agriculture (USDA) food composition tables. Healthy foods, according to a Mediterranean dietary pattern, were categorized into HAC or LAC; total food antioxidant content (FAC) score was constructed for a comparative evaluation of the consumption of these two groups.
Results: In men, an increase in FAC score, which represents an increased consumption of HAC with respect to LAC foods, was associated with a decrease in systolic blood pressure, diastolic blood pressure and C-reactive protein (CRP) (β=-0.5, P=0.02, β=-0.3, P=0.02 and β=-0.03, P=0.03, respectively). Logistic regression analyses showed that in men 15% (30 units) increase in FAC score was associated with 6% decrease in the likelihood of having hypertension (odds ratio (OR)=0.94, 95% confidence interval (CI) 0.91-0.98) and 3% decrease in the likelihood of having a high CRP risk level (OR=0.97, 95% CI 0.94-0.99). No significant associations were observed in women.
Conclusions: A possible greater protective role of healthy HAC as compared with healthy LAC foods on hypertension and inflammation was detected in men. These results stress the importance of studying healthy foods according to their content in antioxidant vitamins and phytochemicals, in primary prevention of CVD.