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What Are Flavanols?

Understanding Flavanols and Their Role in Health

Flavanols belong to a broader category of chemicals known as flavonoids and play a crucial role in various health benefits associated with certain foods. While flavonoids are ubiquitous in nature, catechins, a specific class of flavanols, are believed to offer antioxidant and cardioprotective effects that contribute to the appeal of numerous health foods and beverages.

Where They Are Found

Flavanols are commonly present in the peels and seeds of fruits and vegetables rather than in the flesh. Popular sources of flavanols include fruit juices, apples, avocados, cocoa, and various types of tea and wine. The average European diet reportedly includes around 50mg of flavanols per day, highlighting their prevalence in everyday consumption patterns.

Research Supports Therapeutic Potential

Early studies have indicated that flavanols, especially catechins in green tea, may offer significant therapeutic benefits. These benefits include cardiovascular protection through anti-inflammatory and antioxidant effects. Research has shown that the consumption of flavanol-rich cocoa can lead to improved blood flow and decreased risk of heart attacks.

Moreover, the antioxidant properties of green tea flavanols can help combat oxidative stress, which is the result of various environmental factors and can lead to cellular damage. Green tea flavanols have proven to be effective at neutralizing free radicals and preventing oxidative damage.

Additional research suggests that flavanols could impact cognitive health by enhancing blood flow to the brain and improving cognitive function. Short-term consumption of cocoa flavanols has shown to enhance memory and reaction time, while long-term intake might promote neural efficiency.

Safety Considerations

Studies have indicated that consuming cocoa flavanols at levels of up to 2000mg per day for 12 weeks is considered safe for healthy individuals. While flavanols offer potential health benefits, it is essential to consume them as part of a well-rounded diet and consult with a healthcare provider if making significant dietary changes.

Sources

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[8] Fisher, N., Sorond, F., & Hollenberg, N. (2006). Cocoa Flavanols and Brain Perfusion. Journal of Cardiovascular Pharmacology. [Source]

[9] Nehlig, A. (2013). The neuroprotective effects of cocoa flavanol and its influence on cognitive performance. NCBI. [Source]

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[12] Ottaviani, J. I., Balz, M., Kimball, J., Ensunsa, J. L., Fong, R., Momma, T. Y., Kwik-Uribe, C., Schroeter, H., & Keen, C. L. (2015). Safety and efficacy of cocoa flavanol intake in healthy adults: a randomized, controlled, double-masked trial. The American Journal of Clinical Nutrition, 102(6), 1425–1435. [Source]