Polyphenols and Cardiovascular Health
Polyphenols are a group of naturally occurring compounds found in plants that are known to have a wide range of health benefits. One area of interest is their potential to improve heart health, as cardiovascular disease is the leading cause of death worldwide.
Research suggests that polyphenols can lower the risk of heart disease by reducing inflammation, improving blood flow, preventing oxidative damage to blood vessels, balancing lipids, and improving heart function.1 While there are hundreds of polyphenols, the following four polyphenol groups have been shown so far to be the most effective at protecting your cardiovascular system:
Resveratrol and pterostilbene are molecularly similar polyphenols found mainly in red grapes and blueberries that act as a powerful antioxidant and anti-inflammatory in the human body. Resveratrol is the more extensively studied polyphenol but pterostilbene has been shown to be better absorbed by the body. In human trials, both polyphenols have been observed to reduce hypertension, lower LDL cholesterol levels, and help prevent the development of atherosclerosis.2 Resveratrol also increases nitric oxide (NO) in the blood which directly relaxes the blood vessels, leading to lower blood pressure and better blood flow.3 This was directly observed in another study of overweight participants which showed that resveratrol and pterostilbene improved flow-mediated dilatation of the brachial artery (FMD), a biomarker of endothelial function and cardiovascular health.4
Epigallocatechin gallate, or EGCG, is a polyphenol found in abundance in green tea and in smaller amounts in a variety of fresh fruits. Thought to be responsible for most of green tea’s health benefits, EGCG is a strong antioxidant and promoter of heart health. Studies have shown that EGCG acts through multiple pathways and can help prevent atherosclerosis, hypertension, endothelial dysfunction, ischemic heart diseases, cardiomyopathy, cardiac hypertrophy and congestive heart failure.5 EGCG also may help reduce LDL cholesterol and limit inflammation.6 7
Grape seeds contain several beneficial polyphenols but in particular they contain high levels of a particularly powderful polyphenol group called oligomeric proanthocyanidins (OPCs), thought to be responsible for most of the health benefits of grape seed extract. Human studies have repeatedly shown that grape seed extract has the ability to positively modulate high blood pressure and improve endothelial function and blood flow in both healthy participants and those with preexisting conditions.8 9 Grape seed extract also acts as an antioxidant, preventing free radical damage to the body and oxidation of LDL cholesterol.
One of the most commonly found polyphenols in food, quercetin is a potent polyphenol that exhibits significant heart related benefits including protection against LDL cholesterol oxidation and endothelial damage, reduction of inflammatory markers, increase in nitric oxide and vasodilation, and platelet antiaggregant effects.10 Additionally, quercetin has been shown to reduce blood pressure in participants with Stage 1 hypertension. 11
A diet rich in fresh fruits and vegetables and other polyphenol packed foods is crucial for optimal cardiovascular health and to help prevent future health issues. If you struggle to consume enough of these foods or feel you could benefit from an extra boost of nutrients, the newly released happy being nourished™ Meal Replacement Shake (formally called the THRIVE shake) contains every polyphenol listed above, plus more, and all your essential vitamins and minerals.
1 Yamagata K. (2019). Polyphenols Regulate Endothelial Functions and Reduce the Risk of Cardiovascular Disease. Current pharmaceutical design, 25(22), 2443–2458. https://doi.org/10.2174/1381612825666190722100504
2 Gal, R., Deres, L., Toth, K., Halmosi, R., & Habon, T. (2021). The Effect of Resveratrol on the Cardiovascular System from Molecular Mechanisms to Clinical Results. International journal of molecular sciences, 22(18), 10152. https://doi.org/10.3390/ijms221810152
3 Xia, N., Förstermann, U., & Li, H. (2014). Resveratrol and endothelial nitric oxide. Molecules (Basel, Switzerland), 19(10), 16102–16121. https://doi.org/10.3390/molecules191016102
4 Wong, R. H., Howe, P. R., Buckley, J. D., Coates, A. M., Kunz, I., & Berry, N. M. (2011). Acute resveratrol supplementation improves flow-mediated dilatation in overweight/obese individuals with mildly elevated blood pressure. Nutrition, metabolism, and cardiovascular diseases : NMCD, 21(11), 851–856. https://doi.org/10.1016/j.numecd.2010.03.003
5 Bhardwaj, P., & Khanna, D. (2013). Green tea catechins: defensive role in cardiovascular disorders. Chinese journal of natural medicines, 11(4), 345–353. https://doi.org/10.1016/S1875-5364(13)60051-5
6 Eng, Q. Y., Thanikachalam, P. V., & Ramamurthy, S. (2018). Molecular understanding of Epigallocatechin gallate (EGCG) in cardiovascular and metabolic diseases. Journal of ethnopharmacology, 210, 296–310. https://doi.org/10.1016/j.jep.2017.08.035
7 Reddy, A. T., Lakshmi, S. P., Maruthi Prasad, E., Varadacharyulu, N. C., & Kodidhela, L. D. (2020). Epigallocatechin gallate suppresses inflammation in human coronary artery endothelial cells by inhibiting NF-κB. Life sciences, 258, 118136. https://doi.org/10.1016/j.lfs.2020.118136
8 Schön, C., Allegrini, P., Engelhart-Jentzsch, K., Riva, A., & Petrangolini, G. (2021). Grape Seed Extract Positively Modulates Blood Pressure and Perceived Stress: A Randomized, Double-Blind, Placebo-Controlled Study in Healthy Volunteers. Nutrients, 13(2), 654. https://doi.org/10.3390/nu13020654
9 Foshati, S., Nouripour, F., Sadeghi, E., & Amani, R. (2022). The effect of grape (Vitis vinifera) seed extract supplementation on flow-mediated dilation, blood pressure, and heart rate: A systematic review and meta-analysis of controlled trials with duration- and dose-response analysis. Pharmacological research, 175, 105905. https://doi.org/10.1016/j.phrs.2021.105905
10 Patel, R. V., Mistry, B. M., Shinde, S. K., Syed, R., Singh, V., & Shin, H. S. (2018). Therapeutic potential of quercetin as a cardiovascular agent. European journal of medicinal chemistry, 155, 889–904. https://doi.org/10.1016/j.ejmech.2018.06.053
11 Perez-Vizcaino, F., Duarte, J., Jimenez, R. et al. Antihypertensive effects of the flavonoid quercetin.Pharmacol. Rep 61, 67–75 (2009). https://doi.org/10.1016/S1734-1140(09)70008-8