High consumption of flavonoids could reduce body fat mass

Higher consumption of a number of flavonoids is associated with lower body fat mass, independent of genetic and common environmental factors, according to a study published in the American Journal of Clinical Nutrition by UK scientists.

The team recruited 2734 healthy female twins aged 18-83 years old (43% identical twins). Dietary intake was assessed using a 131 question food frequency questionnaire (FFQ). Using this data the team calculated total dietary flavonoid as well as 7 subclasses intake (flavones, anthocyanins, flavan-3-ols, flavonols, flavones, polymers and proanthocyanidins). Cassidy et al. also determined intake of energy and other nutrients from the FFQ data.

Fat mass was measured using dual-energy X ray absorptiometry of the trunk, arms, legs and whole body and from these measurements a number of calculations were performed such as fat mass index, fat mass ratio (FMR) and central fat mass index. The participants also reported on their physical activity levels during the past 12 months. Environmental influence on FMR including smoking, menopausal status and alcohol consumption were taken into account.

The team found that a higher intake of anthocyanin, flavonol and proanthocyanidin subclasses was significantly associated with a lower fat mass ratio (limb fat mass to trunk fat mass), even after the authors took into account fibre and total fruit and vegetable intake. Compared to the lowest quintile of intake the highest quintile had a 4-5% lower FMR. The authors found that with the exception of polymers all flavonoid subclasses were significantly associated with lower central fat mass, with the strongest inverse association being seen for flavonol, flavone and proanthocyanidins subclasses.

Cassidy et al found that when they analysed identical twins who consumed different diets, the twin with the higher intakes of flavan-3-ols, flavonols and proanthocyanidins in their diet had a significantly lower FMR than that of their co-twin and the difference within the pair of twins was 3-4%. Intake between the identical twins differed by 308 mg for flavan-3-ols, 34.8 mg for flavonols and 198 mg for proanthocyanidins.

They also analysed the diets by food and found that twins with the high consumption of foods high in flavonol (onions, tea and pears) and proanthocyanidins-rich foods (apples and cocoa drinks), and in younger participants (aged 50 years), consuming anthocyanin rich foods (2 portions) had a 3-9% lower FMR than that of their co-twins.

They report that extreme intake of anthocyanin and flavone subclasses related to a 6-9% lower fat mass index (fat mass (kg) divided by height), and 8-9% central fat mass index difference (trunk fat mass divided by height). Extreme intake related to a 2.6 portion/day difference in anthocyanin intake and 2. 7 portion/day difference in flavone intakes. The authors note that one portion of anthocyanin-rich food is the equivalent of 100g berries, 170g pears, 80g grape, or 125 mL wine and 1 portion of flavone-rich foods equated to 125 mL wine, 120 g oranges or 80g peppers.

They note that their findings indicate that the association with flavonoid intake are independent of genetic factors and environmental factors. They state that “the magnitude of the associations we observed between intake of the flavonoid subclasses and the FMR highlight the potential public health importance of these findings.” The authors propose several mechanisms linking flavonoids to weight maintenance including that the flavan-3-ol epigallocatechin gallate (EGCG) has been found to “prevent lipid absorption, decreases the expression of genes that regulate lipid metabolism, increase energy expenditure and reduces weight gain and fat mass in a dose-dependent manner.”



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