How long we live is down to a number of contributing factors. Some are beyond our control such as our genetics, injuries and illnesses.

However, certain choices have a huge impact. How often we exercise, whether we smoke and how much alcohol we drink are all influences on lifespan.

Diet also has a major role in our health and wellbeing, with some foods known to lower the risk of conditions while others increase the risk.

Now a study has identified several foods and drinks that could help you live longer, as well as have a reduced risk of dying from Alzheimer’s disease, cancer and cardiovascular disease.

Research, published in the journal Scientific Reports, found a link between higher flavonol intake and lower risk for these conditions and all-cause mortality.

Flavonols are a type of flavonoid, biologically active polyphenolic compounds found in various plant-based foods.

They are already known to have various potential health benefits including enhancing blood flow, and lowering inflammation, oxidative stress, and blood pressure.

Flavonoids have also been shown to exhibit anti-tumour effects by targeting key molecules and pathways.

But this was the first time the relationship between flavonol intake and mortality risk had been so thoroughly studied.

As part of the study, a team of researchers used the National Health and Nutrition Examination Survey (NHANES) database containing information on 11,679 people aged 20 and older.

They explored the relationship between flavonol intake (total flavonol, kaempferol, myricetin, isorhamnetin, and quercetin), all-cause mortality risk, and cause-specific mortality risk (Alzheimer’s disease, cardiovascular disease, cancer, and diabetes).

This revealed that participants with the highest total flavonol intake tended to be young white men and had a history of diabetes, hypertension, hyperlipidemia, congestive heart failure, coronary heart disease, angina, heart attack, and stroke.

Increasing total flavonoid intake showed a declining trend in all-cause mortality as well as Alzheimer’s disease, cancer, and cardiovascular disease-specific mortality.

While higher age was associated with a significant increase in all-cause mortality, female gender was found to be significantly linked to a lower risk of all-cause mortality.

The study said: “Through comprehensive updating NHANES records, this study concluded that dietary flavonol intake was significantly linked with overall, Alzheimer’s disease, cancer, and cardiovascular disease-specific mortality risks.

“The outcome of our research elucidated the relationship between flavonol intake, all-cause, and cause-specific mortality risks in a sample representing the entire nation of non-hospitalised citizens in the United States, presenting evidence for flavonol intake as an independent, practical, quantitative, and reliable predictor of disease survival status, this means that it is suitable for the health and risk alert management of Alzheimer’s disease, cardiovascular disease and cancer patients.

“Our findings have practical significance for public health, because flavonol can be supplemented by making daily dietary modifications and eating habits better.”

But where can we find these flavonols? Primary flavonols like quercetin, kaempferol, myricetin, and isorhamnetin are abundant in tea, onions, and berries.

Commenting on the study results for News Medical, Dr Sushama Chaphalkar, said: “Green and black teas are both excellent sources of flavonols.”

When it comes to onions she recommended the red variety, “which are higher in flavonols compared to other varieties”.

She added: “Such as blueberries and blackberries, which are known for their high antioxidant content, including flavonols.”

According to Dr Chaphalkar, other foods rich in flavanols include:

  • Kale
  • Apples
  • Red wine
  • Tomatoes
  • Broccoli
  • Lettuce
  • Grapes.
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