Heart Health and Flavonols

Heart Health and Flavonols

by: Jeffrey B. Blumberg, Ph.D., F.A.S.N., F.A.C.N., CNS-S, Member of the Editorial Board,Herbalife Nutrition​

Here’s Why Tea and Chocolate (In Moderation) Are Good For Your Heart

Both tea and cocoa contain high concentrations of what are called flavanols, a class of flavonoids that have demonstrated positive effects for our health. Decades of studies and research have shown how flavanols may affect and improve multiple risk factors for cardiovascular disease, including elevated blood pressure, inflammation, insulin resistance, and more.

Several reviews and analyses have been published indicating a positive relationship between the consumption of cocoa flavanols and heart health, improvements in cholesterol levels, and reduced possibilities of heart attack and heart disease.

And over time, especially in recent years, a growing body of research has focused on how tea – black, oolong, green, all of the above – yields incredible benefits for healthy hearts as well.

Tea, like cocoa, has a rich, deep, and complex history of traditional use. It originated in southwest China around 1500 B.C. and was believed to have powerful medicinal properties. Hundreds of years later, Portuguese priests and merchants were introduced to tea, ultimately helping to bring it to western Europe and to Great Britain in the 17th century. And still, to this day, it remains the drink of choice every afternoon in the U.K.

As we learn more about tea, its properties, and its positive health effects, we realize that these long-ago tea-lovers were onto something – even if they didn’t yet appreciate tea’s phytonutrient profile or flavanol content.

More recently, a study presented to the American Heart Association concluded that drinking tea is associated with lower coronary artery progression and a decreased instance of cardiovascular events. And reports out of Harvard have shown that those who regularly drink black or green tea may be less likely to experience heart attacks or strokes.

Right now, in the medical and nutrition communities, we are looking at new ways to use the flavanols from tea or cocoa to promote heart health, largely by extracting safe amounts from the extracts into functional foods, beverages, and supplements. And as I’ve written before, we are seeing emerging bits of research suggesting that these flavanols may also have positive outcomes beyond the heart, including cognition, diabetes, and metabolic syndrome.

Taken together, all this data and evidence sends the same basic message: consuming tea can help your heart. It’s not the only solution; it won’t prevent every potential problem from rearing its ugly head; and no one should ever consider it a substitute for well-known medicines or proven heart-healthy regimens of diet and exercise. But, like adding a little more cocoa to your day, tea is certainly part of the equation.

And someday soon, I hope, we will better comprehend how tea, cocoa, and similar substances can be more effectively utilized to maintain good heart health.