Background and aims: Flavonoids are a group of polyphenol compounds, ubiquitously found in plants. Great emphasis has been given to their possible benefits for cardiovascular health. These beneficial effects may be mediated by a specific action on arterial walls. Arterial stiffness is a marker of vascular aging, increasingly used in the clinical setting and assessed by pulse wave velocity. It has shown to be a robust predictor of cardiovascular events and mortality. This review aims at providing a comprehensive evaluation of available intervention and observational studies examining the relationship between flavonoid consumption and arterial stiffness.
Data synthesis: A Medline(®) literature search was performed using the keywords "arterial stiffness" and "flavonoids". As a result, 2 cross-sectional and 16 intervention studies assessing the relationship between flavonoids intake and arterial stiffness were retained. Four intervention trials reported a significant decrease of arterial stiffness after a flavonoid-based intervention, independently from blood pressure changes. The two observational studies reported significant associations between a higher flavonoid consumption and a lower arterial stiffness. In this review, isoflavones, anthocyanins and to a lesser extent cocoa flavan-3-ols appeared to be the more efficient to improve vascular function.
Conclusions: Despite their heterogeneity, preliminary data seem to support an improvement of the arterial stiffness related to flavonoid intake. However, further research on absorption and dose-response effects of the specific flavonoid subclasses on arterial structure is warranted.
Keywords: Arterial stiffness; Cardiovascular diseases; Flavonoids; Wave reflection.
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