Change in habitual intakes of flavonoid-rich foods and mortality in US males and females

BMC Med. 2023 May 12;21(1):181. doi: 10.1186/s12916-023-02873-z.


Background: Higher baseline intakes of flavonoid-rich foods and beverages are associated with a lower risk of chronic disease and mortality in observational studies. However, associations between changes in intakes and mortality remain unclear. We aimed to evaluate associations between 8-year changes in intakes of (1) individual flavonoid-rich foods and (2) a composite measure (termed the 'flavodiet') of foods and beverages that are known to be main contributors to flavonoid intake and subsequent total and cause-specific mortality.

Methods: We evaluated associations between 8-year changes in intakes of (1) individual flavonoid-rich foods and (2) a novel 'flavodiet' score and total and cause-specific mortality. We included 55,786 females from the Nurses' Health Study (NHS) and 29,800 males from the Health Professionals Follow-up Study (HPFS), without chronic disease at baseline in our analyses. Using multivariable-adjusted Cox proportional hazard models, we examined associations of 8-year changes in intakes of (1) flavonoid-rich foods and (2) the flavodiet score with subsequent 2-year lagged 6-year risk of mortality adjusting for baseline intakes. Data were pooled using fixed-effects meta-analyses.

Results: We documented 15,293 deaths in the NHS and 8988 deaths in HPFS between 1986 and 2018. For blueberries, red wine and peppers, a 5%, 4% and 9% lower risk of mortality, respectively, was seen for each 3.5 servings/week increase in intakes while for tea, a 3% lower risk was seen for each 7 servings/week increase [Pooled HR (95% CI) for blueberries; 0.95 (0.91, 0.99); red wine: 0.96 (0.93, 0.99); peppers: 0.91 (0.88, 0.95); and tea: 0.97 (0.95, 0.98)]. Conversely, a 3.5 servings/week increase in intakes of onions and grapefruit plus grapefruit juice was associated with a 5% and 6% higher risk of total mortality, respectively. An increase of 3 servings per day in the flavodiet score was associated with an 8% lower risk of total mortality [Pooled HR: 0.92 (0.89, 0.96)], and a 13% lower risk of neurological mortality [Pooled HR: 0.87 (0.79, 0.97)], after multivariable adjustments.

Conclusions: Encouraging an increased intake of specific flavonoid-rich foods and beverages, namely tea, blueberries, red wine, and peppers, even in middle age, may lower early mortality risk.

Keywords: All-cause mortality; Flavodiet score; Flavonoids.

Publication types

  • Research Support, N.I.H., Extramural
  • Research Support, Non-U.S. Gov't

MeSH terms

  • Diet*
  • Female
  • Flavonoids* / analysis
  • Follow-Up Studies
  • Fruit / chemistry
  • Humans
  • Male
  • Middle Aged
  • Risk Factors
  • Tea


  • Flavonoids
  • Tea