Research has suggested a number of beneficial effects arising from the consumption of dietary flavonoids, found in foods such as cocoa, apples, tea, citrus fruits and berries on cardiovascular risk factors such as high blood pressure and endothelial dysfunction. These effects are thought to have a significant impact upon both vascular and cerebrovascular health, ultimately with the potential to prevent cardiovascular and potentially neurodegenerative disease with a vascular component, for example vascular dementia. This review explores the current evidence for the effects of flavonoid supplementation on human endothelial function and both peripheral and cerebral blood flow (CBF). Evidence presented includes their potential to reduce blood pressure in hypertensive individuals, as well as increasing peripheral blood perfusion and promoting CBF in both healthy and at-risk populations. However, there is great variation in the literature due to the heterogeneous nature of the randomised controlled trials conducted. As such, there is a clear need for further research and understanding within this area in order to maximise potential health benefits.
Keywords: blood pressure; cardiovascular disease; cerebral blood flow; cerebrovascular function; cocoa; flavonoid; flow-mediated dilation.