Just as a structurally sound building requires a solid foundation, healthy eating habits in children can help establish a strong base for future heart health. Researchers in Spain found that adolescents who had higher levels of polyphenols in their system had better cardiovascular health metrics than those with less polyphenols.
Polyphenols are bioactive compounds found in many dark or brightly colored fruits and vegetables. They are also found in nuts and olive oil and are known for their antioxidant and anti-inflammatory properties.
Scientists wanted to find out more about the impact of polyphenols on the health of adolescents since there is not much literature regarding their effect on children or adolescents. So a team from the University of Barcelona, the Hospital Clínic-IDIBAPS, the Physiopathology of Obesity and Nutrition Networking Biomedical Research Center (CIBEROBN), the Spanish Cardiovascular Research Network (CIBERCV) and the SHE Foundation combined their efforts and published their findings in the journal Scientific Reports.
The study consisted of more than 1,300 participants between the ages of 11-14 from 24 secondary education schools in Madrid and Barcelona. Researchers analyzed the amount of polyphenols in urine samples to determine the levels in each person and then compared their cardiovascular health (CVH) as measured by several different metrics such as blood pressure, total cholesterol, BMI, blood glucose and others. They found the higher the level of polyphenols, the better the CVH metrics.
"With the results of this study, we observed that a higher urinary polyphenol excretion is linearly associated with a higher cardiovascular health index in adolescents aged 11-14, specially in children," said professor Rosa M Lamuela. "This cardiovascular health index is defined by the criteria established by the American Heart Association (AHA), which considers seven variables: body mass index, physical activity, smoking, diet, blood pressure, total cholesterol and blood glucose. Although this is a cross-sectional study and we cannot see the causality of this relationship, the scientific literature and the previous studies carried out by our research group show that polyphenols have a protective effect on the incidence of cardiovascular health in adults."
The critical nature of establishing a strong nutritional foundation for children so as to not compromise their cardiovascular health in adulthood is the reason researchers were interested in these results. And now they want to build upon these findings.
They are encouraging their peers to conduct similar studies around the globe as well as to conduct trials regarding how much of these polyphenols are necessary during childhood to build the necessary base. The belief is by reducing the risk of cardiovascular disease in young people it will improve their quality of life in adulthood.