Dietary Flavanols

A Review of Select Effects on Vascular Function, Blood Pressure, and Exercise Performance

Yousef A. Al-Dashti, Roberta R. Holt, Charles L Stebbins, Carl L Keen, Robert M. Hackman

Research output: Contribution to journalReview article

1 Citation (Scopus)

Abstract

An individual's diet affects numerous physiological functions and can play an important role in reducing the risk of cardiovascular disease. Epidemiological and clinical studies suggest that dietary flavanols can be an important modulator of vascular risk. Diets and plant extracts rich in flavanols have been reported to lower blood pressure, especially in prehypertensive and hypertensive individuals. Flavanols may act in part through signaling pathways that affect vascular function, nitric oxide availability, and the release of endothelial-derived relaxing and constricting factors. During exercise, flavanols have been reported to modulate metabolism and respiration (e.g., maximal oxygen uptake, O2 cost of exercise, and energy expenditure), and reduce oxidative stress and inflammation, resulting in increased skeletal muscle efficiency and endurance capacity. Flavanol-induced reductions in blood pressure during exercise may decrease the work of the heart. Collectively, these effects suggest that flavanols can act as an ergogenic aid to help delay the onset of fatigue. More research is needed to better clarify the effects of flavanols on vascular function, blood pressure regulation, and exercise performance and establish safe and effective levels of intake. Flavanol-rich foods and food products can be useful components of a healthy diet and lifestyle program for those seeking to better control their blood pressure or to enhance their physical activity. Key teaching points: • Epidemiological and clinical studies indicate that dietary flavanols can reduce the risk of vascular disease. • Diets and plant extracts rich in flavanols have been reported to lower blood pressure and improve exercise performance in humans. • Mechanisms by which flavanols may reduce blood pressure function include alterations in signaling pathways that affect vascular function, nitric oxide availability, and the release of endothelial-derived relaxation and constriction factors. • Mechanisms by which flavanols may enhance exercise performance include modulation of metabolism and respiration (e.g., maximal oxygen uptake, O2 cost of exercise, and energy expenditure) and reduction of oxidative stress and inflammation. These effects can result in increased skeletal muscle efficiency and endurance capacity. • Further research is needed to clarify the amount, timing, and frequency of flavanol intake for blood pressure regulation and exercise performance.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)553-567
Number of pages15
JournalJournal of the American College of Nutrition
Volume37
Issue number7
DOIs
StatePublished - Oct 3 2018

Fingerprint

Blood Vessels
Blood Pressure
Plant Extracts
Diet
Energy Metabolism
Epidemiologic Studies
Nitric Oxide
Respiration
Skeletal Muscle
Oxidative Stress
Oxygen
Inflammation
Costs and Cost Analysis
Food
Vascular Diseases
Research
Constriction
Fatigue
Teaching
Cardiovascular Diseases

Keywords

  • Cardiovascular
  • endothelial function
  • endurance capacity
  • epicatechin
  • hypertension
  • nitric oxide
  • oxidative stress

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Medicine (miscellaneous)
  • Nutrition and Dietetics

Cite this

Dietary Flavanols : A Review of Select Effects on Vascular Function, Blood Pressure, and Exercise Performance. / Al-Dashti, Yousef A.; Holt, Roberta R.; Stebbins, Charles L; Keen, Carl L; Hackman, Robert M.

In: Journal of the American College of Nutrition, Vol. 37, No. 7, 03.10.2018, p. 553-567.

Research output: Contribution to journalReview article

Al-Dashti, Yousef A. ; Holt, Roberta R. ; Stebbins, Charles L ; Keen, Carl L ; Hackman, Robert M. / Dietary Flavanols : A Review of Select Effects on Vascular Function, Blood Pressure, and Exercise Performance. In: Journal of the American College of Nutrition. 2018 ; Vol. 37, No. 7. pp. 553-567.
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