Previous dietary studies have shown that eating large amounts of fruits and vegetables can help reduce the risk of developing chronic conditions such as heart disease. A new study conducted by the Institute of Food Research adds to the growing body of evidence that polyphenols, found in foods such as apples and green tea, have a protective health benefit.

In this study, researchers found that low concentrations of the polyphenols from green tea (epigallocatechin gallate) and procyanidin from apples blocked the function of vascular endothelial growth factor (VEGF), a signalling molecule which can trigger atherosclerosis, in cells derived from human blood vessels. The polyphenols also activated another enzyme signalling system that generates nitric oxide in the blood, which helps widen blood vessels and prevent damage.

While inhibition of VEGF signalling by dietary polyphenols has previously been implicated in other studies, this study provides the first evidence that polyphenols can directly interact with VEGF to block its signals, at the levels seen in the blood stream after eating polyphenol rich foods. 

“If this effect happens in the body as well, it provides very strong evidence for a mechanism that links dietary polyphenols and beneficial health effects,” said Dr. Paul Kroon, Research Leader at IFR.

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