Many studies have shown that flavonoids are effective as antihypertensive drugs in arterial hypertension. In the present work, we have analyzed the effects of some flavonoid extracts in the spontaneous hypertensive rat model (SHR). An important feature of this study is that we have used a low dose, far from those that are usually applied in human therapy or experimental animals, a dose that responded to the criterion of a potential future commercial use in human subjects. Treatments were carried out for 6 and 12 weeks in two groups of SHR rats, which received apigenin, lemon extract, grapefruit + bitter orange (GBO) extracts, and cocoa extract. Captopril was used as a positive control in the SHR group treated for 6 weeks (SHR6) and Diosmin was used as the industry reference in the SHR group treated for 12 weeks (SHR12). Captopril and GBO extracts lowered the high arterial pressure of the SHR6 animals, but none of the extracts were effective in the SHR12 group. Apigenin, lemon extract (LE), GBO, and captopril also improved aortic vascular relaxation and increased plasma and urinary excretion of nitrites, but only in the SHR6 group. Kidney and urinary thiobarbituric acid reactive substances (TBARS) were also significantly reduced by GBO in the SHR6 rats. Apigenin also improved vascular relaxation in the SHR12 group and all the flavonoids studied reduced urinary thiobarbituric acid reactive substances (TBARS) excretion and proteinuria. Vascular abnormalities, such as lumen/wall ratio in heart arteries and thoracic aorta, were moderately improved by these treatments in the SHR6 group. In conclusion, the flavonoid-rich extracts included in this study, especially apigenin, LE and GBO improved vascular vasodilatory function of young adult SHRs but only the GBO-treated rats benefited from a reduction in blood pressure. These extracts may be used as functional food ingredients with a moderate therapeutic benefit, especially in the early phases of arterial hypertension.
Keywords: acetylcholine; flavonoids; heart; kidney; nitric oxide; phenylephrine; sodium balance.