Healthy food for a healthy heart

20 April 2022

Research from the University of Reading is being used to develop and optimise the formulation of commercial ‘heart-healthy’ drinks and to improve product labelling in the vitamin and supplement industry.

It has long been known that diets high in polyphenol-rich foods, such as apples, blueberries, cocoa, and black tea, can lower the risk of cardiovascular disease. Now, researchers at the University of Reading are helping manufacturers to harness the benefits of these foods.

A team of researchers led by Professors Jeremy Spencer and Gunter Kuhnle demonstrated how certain polyphenols, called dietary flavonoids, are absorbed and metabolised by the human body, including how their consumption can improve blood flow and protect against heart disease.

The Reading team’s research into the cardiovascular effects of cocoa-derived flavanols led to the development by Mars, Inc. of the CocoaVia® dietary supplement. Subsequent research by the team established the intake of flavanols necessary for promoting heart health, leading to reformulation of the product and the launch of a new, higher flavanol version.

The researchers also revealed the benefits of citrus-derived flavanols, which are found in whole fruits but usually removed (along with dietary fibre) during the juicing process. This led to the development by PepsiCo of the Tropicana Whole Fruit juice range, featuring products that are richer in both flavonoids and fibre than standard fruit juice.

At the same time as contributing to the availability and efficacy of functional food products, the Reading team have developed a more reliable method of measuring and analysing flavanol content. This has opened the door for consistent product labelling, ultimately empowering consumers to more accurately compare products across the market.

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  • University of Reading

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