These fruits and vegetables that protect against premature death from cancer and cardiovascular disease

People who regularly consume fruits and vegetables rich in polyphenols, from the flavonoid class, are less at risk of dying prematurely from cardiovascular disease and cancer. This protective effect is easy to obtain on a daily basis by choosing the right fruits and vegetables.

Plants are essential for the prevention of chronic diseases because they are the only foods that contain pharmacologically active molecules capable of interfering with the development of pathologies such as atherosclerosis, hyperglycemia and cancer. This protective role is well illustrated by studies showing that globally, approximately 8 million people die prematurely from cardiovascular disease and cancer due to insufficient intake of fruits and vegetables.

These wonderful protective molecules in fruits and vegetables

A large number of preclinical and epidemiological studies suggest that a good part of the benefits associated with the consumption of plants come from flavonoids, a class of polyphenols found in abundance in several foods of plant origin. According to their chemical structure, six major subclasses of flavonoids exist in nature, including flavonols (onions, broccoli, tea, many fruits), flavones (parsley, celery), flavanones (citrus fruits), flavanols (green tea , dark chocolate, red wine, apples), anthocyanins (berries, red wine) and isoflavones (soy). All these molecules modulate to varying degrees several phenomena involved in the development of chronic diseases, in particular inflammation and oxidative stress, and therefore contribute greatly to the positive impact of foods of plant origin on health.

56,000 people followed for 23 years: less cancer, premature death and cardiovascular disease

This important role of flavonoids is supported by the results of a recent study carried out in Denmark. By examining the dietary habits of 56,048 Danes over a 23-year period, researchers observed that people with the highest flavonoid intakes had a 17% reduction in the risk of dying prematurely from cardiovascular disease.

and a risk of death from cancer reduced by 30% compared to those who ate the least.

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These protective effects peak at 500 mg of flavonoids per day, but higher intakes of up to 1000 mg per day appear to confer an additional protective effect for smokers as well as people who consume 20 g or more of alcohol daily ( 1-2 glasses). It is possible that in these people, a higher intake of flavonoids can compensate somewhat for the metabolic and inflammatory damage caused by tobacco and alcohol.

In case of overweight, it does not work

It should be noted, however, that the reduction in cardiovascular mortality, and that caused by cancer by flavonoids, is not observed in obese people: for example, while there is a 22% reduction in the risk of cardiovascular mortality in people with a normal weight (BMI between 19 and 25), this protection disappears completely in those with a BMI of 30 or more. It therefore seems that the major metabolic imbalances caused by excess weight are too great to be attenuated by the bioactive compounds of plants, which once again underlines the importance of staying slim to reduce the risk of chronic diseases.

What to eat daily to be well protected

Several foods are excellent sources of flavonoids, including tea, dark chocolate, red wine, citrus fruits, berries, apples and broccoli. It is therefore relatively easy to ingest a sufficiently high quantity of these polyphenols to take advantage of the protective effects noted in the study. For example, it is possible to easily reach the goal of 500 mg of flavonoids by consuming in a day an apple, an orange and a serving of broccoli, a serving of berries and drinks such as green tea.

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Aune D: Fruit and vegetable intake and the risk of cardiovascular disease, total cancer and all-cause mortality, a systematic review and dose–responsemeta-analysis of prospective studies. Int J. Epidemiol. 46: 1029–1056

Bondonno NP: Flavonoid intake is associated with lower mortality in the Danish Diet Cancer and Health Cohort. Nat. Common. 2019; 10:3651.


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