polyphenol - olive oil on wooden table

New evidence suggests that older adults could improve their heart health by eating and drinking more foods and beverages that contain high levels of polyphenol.

Natural plant foods are high in polyphenols such as fruits, vegetables, tea, wine and extra virgin olive oil.

The study was carried out with 2,753 participants, all with type 2 diabetes, and aged between 50 and 75 years old. They were analyzed on their major cardiovascular risk compared to their intake of polyphenols and polyphenol classes in their diet.

There are two main classes of polyphenols, which make up around 95 per cent of the polyphenols that are eaten. One class, flavonoids, are commonly found in citrus fruits like grapefruit, while the other, phenolic acid, is found in the skins and seeds of fruit.

To assess dietary habits of the participants, they were given a questionnaire to evaluate their polyphenol intake, alongside having their blood pressure, HbA1c and other health markers measured.

The scientists, from the University of Naples Federico II, observed that the participants who had a higher polyphenol intake also tended to have a lower BMI and waist size, and overall were at a lower risk of cardiovascular disease. The findings were still significant after they were adjusted for confounding factors.

“These findings support the consumption of foods and beverages rich in different classes of polyphenols particularly in people with diabetes,” according to the researchers.

Certain changes to diet may make it possible to help prevent people from developing type 2 diabetes, and so this research helps to highlight key areas that should be researched.

The study was published online in the Clinical Nutrition journal.