Vascular action of polyphenols
Dietary patterns are widely recognised as contributors to cardiovascular and cerebrovascular disease. Endothelial function, the elastic properties of large arteries and the magnitude and timing of wave reflections are important determinants of cardiovascular performance. Several epidemiological studies suggest that the regular consumption of foods and beverages rich in flavonoids is associated with a reduction in the risk of several pathological conditions ranging from hypertension to coronary heart disease, stroke and dementia. The impairment of endothelial function is directly related to ageing and an association between decreased cerebral perfusion and dementia has been shown to exist. Cerebral blood flow (CBF) must be maintained to ensure a constant delivery of oxygen and glucose as well as the removal of waste products. Increasing blood flow is one potential way for improving brain function and the prospect for increasing CBF with dietary polyphenols is extremely promising. The major polyphenols shown to have some of these effects in humans are primarily from cocoa, wine, grape seed, berries, tea, tomatoes (polyphenolics and nonpolyphenolics), soy and pomegranate. There has been a significant paradigm shift in polyphenol research during the last decade. This review summarises our current knowledge in this area and points the way for the development of new types of functional foods targeted to brain health through improving vascular health.