How Does Your Heart Function/“Break”?
There is a lot of complex stuff that happens in your heart.
Here you’ll find a breakdown of the basics that will help you understand more of why polyphenols will help your heart to function better and succumb to fewer diseases.
A healthy cardiovascular system (your heart and blood vessels) pumps and transports blood throughout your entire body.
Your blood delivers oxygen and nutrients to where they need to go.
Different blood vessels include:
Endothelial dysfunction is a precursor to atherosclerosis (hardening and narrowing of your arteries). Atherosclerosis is one of the leading causes of many cardiovascular diseases (CVD).
Your endothelium is a group of single layer cells that line different organs and body cavities. Your endothelium helps to maintain the tonicity of your vascular system and allows your blood to flow freely.
Causes of endothelial dysfunction and ultimately atherosclerosis and CVD include:
- High blood pressure
- High cholesterol
- High blood sugar
- Reduced Nitric Oxide (NO) levels
Endothelial dysfunction can lead to:
- Blood clot
- Vascular lesions and narrowing → atherosclerosis
- Plaque rupture
Atherosclerosis can lead to other conditions like stroke, blood clots, and heart attack.
The Importance of Nitric Oxide for the Heart
NO is extremely important in the functioning of the heart. Before it was actually discovered as Nitric oxide, scientists referred to the compound as “endothelium-derived relaxing factor.”
The main positive effects that NO has on the cardiovascular system include:
- Relaxation and vasodilation of smooth muscle cells which allows for blood to flow more freely
- Prevents blood clots from forming
- Anti-inflammatory properties
- Antioxidant effects against reactive oxygen species (ROS)
- Helps promote the growth of endothelial cells
- Helps protect the heart muscle and cells
Polyphenols are plant-derived phytochemicals that help to nourish your body with antioxidants and scavenge reactive oxygen species (ROS) in your body.
The main polyphenol groups that help your heart are:
- Epigallocatechin Gallate (EGCG)
Olive oil and fruits/vegetables —especially berries— also supply you with numerous polyphenols but don’t belong to one group more than another.
Resveratrol is part of the stilbene family.
The differences in diet between different countries and their CVD rates had been studied. France and Scotland had similar fat intakes in their diets.
France had much lower levels of CVD compared to Scotland. Wine consumption was the major difference between the French and Scottish diets.
The higher wine intake leads to more polyphenols in their bodies which lowered the risks of heart disease significantly.
Some foods resveratrol is found in:
- Red wine and red grapes
- Dark chocolate
Positive effects on the heart:
- Improves Cholesterol levels
- Supports endothelial mitochondria function
- Increases NO production
- Lowers blood pressure
- Decreases platelet aggregation (blood clots)
Epigallocatechin Gallate (EGCG)
EGCG is a part of the catechin class of polyphenols. EGCG is found mainly in teas but especially green tea.
Green tea has fantastic benefits for your entire body. It helps to reduce body weight, BMI, and waist circumference.
People who drink 5+ cups of green tea a day have significantly lower levels of heart diseases compared to those who only drink green tea occasionally.
Within the heart, EGCG can help with:
- Protection against endothelial dysfunction
- Increasing NO production
- Reducing high blood pressure and ROS
- Normalizing cholesterol levels
- Decreasing plaques and atherosclerotic damage
- Lowering the risks of cardiac hypertrophy and cardiac cell damage/injury
Curcumin is found mostly in turmeric and helps with brain and cardiovascular health.
Lower doses of curcumin seem to be more effective than higher doses. One study showed that 15 mg/day had much better effects than 30 or 60 mg doses.
Curcumin helps the heart by:
- Decreasing LDL and triglyceride levels while increasing HDL
- Blocking angII stimulation (angII is responsible for increasing blood pressure)
- Reducing ROS
- Inhibiting development of atherosclerosis
- Protecting aortic and endothelial cells
Quercetin belongs to the flavonoid family.
You can find quercetin in a lot of different foods. Apples and onions tend to have the highest levels of quercetin.
An apple a day really CAN keep the doctor away.
In a study done on patients considered prehypertensive or Stage 1 hypertensive, it was found that when given 730 mg of quercetin over a 28 day period that the Stage 1 group had improved numbers.
The prehypertensive group didn’t have any changes compared to the placebo group.
Based on this study, patients with early hypertension can benefit from taking polyphenols in the quercetin group.
Some other food sources include:
- Cocoa powder
- Green and black tea
- Mulberry leaves
Positive effects quercetin has on the heart include:
- Reducing blood pressure
- Improving all cholesterol and triglyceride levels
- Anti-clotting effects
- Improved endothelial function
- Reduced lipid deposits on arterial walls regardless of diet
Berries, Fruits, and Vegetables
Since there are different levels of each polyphenolic group in berries, fruits, and vegetables it is better to look at them as a whole rather than assigning them to a specific group.
Although they represent many groups, many of them have high flavonoid content.
Skins and the meat of the fruits will contain differing levels even though they are of the same fruit. This is why juicing tends to leave out a lot of the polyphenols that you’d normally get from eating the whole fruit.
Positive effects they can have on the heart include:
- Lowered chance of coronary heart disease
- A decrease in blood pressure
- Anti-blood clotting
- Lowered angII levels
- Free radical scavenging (Reducing ROS)
Olive oil —much like berries, fruits, and vegetables— does not belong to a particular group.
Olive oil used to be believed to only have heart benefits based on its high monounsaturated fatty acid (MUFA) content.
However, it has recently been found that olives —and all of their byproducts— are rich in polyphenols as well!
Olive oil quality will depend on how ripe the olives are when they are cultivated. If they are allowed to ripen too much, most of the beneficial content is no longer available.
Some heart benefits from olive oil include:
- Better cholesterol and blood pressure
- Reduced platelet aggregation
- Increased endothelial function
- During in vitro (petri dish) studies, inflamed angiogenesis is reduced → more studies need to be done in vivo (on living creatures)
As you can see, there are numerous benefits for your heart by increasing your polyphenol intake. It’s also quite easy to do given the wide range of foods that offer polyphenols.
If you find it difficult to increase your plant-derived food intake, you can add in a polyphenol-rich supplement like Atrantil to your daily routine.
One dose of Atrantil gives you the equivalent of polyphenols from 4 cups of blueberries!
How are you going to increase your polyphenol intake and strengthen your heart?