Dr Emma Wightman published an article in THE CONVERSATION today which argues that the French paradox could be explained by polyphenols. The French paradox is a phenomenon whereby Mediterranean countries like France have, in the past, suffered a relatively low incidence of coronary heart disease despite consuming quite high levels of dietary fats; hence the paradox. However, a more modern interpretation of the correlation involves a whole host of dietary and lifestyle factors and this could include the fact that Mediterranean diets consume relatively more fruits and vegetables than other developed nations; food sources which are rich in plant compounds called polyphenols. Here at the Brain Performance and Nutrition Research centre we research polyphenols (so far green tea catechins, berry anthocyanins, cocoa flavanols and the grape polyphenol resveratrol) in humans to ascertain if one of the mechanisms which might underlie their protective effects in the heart; the ability to promote blood flow, might also boost the functionality of the brain. So far we haven't seen this in 18-35 yr olds (although the blood flow boost is robust and consistent across our studies) but we expect to see this with our ongoing studies in compromised individuals and older humans (50-70 yrs). We'll be publishing this data later in the year but, in the mean time, if you would like to be a participant in these trials then just check out our page on current recruitment.
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