Flavonoids, compounds found in plant-based foods and beverages, might ameliorate vascular damage and atherosclerosis. Therefore, our aim was to assess the association between flavonoid intake and hospital admissions due to atherosclerotic cardiovascular disease.
In this prospective cohort study, participants from the Danish Diet, Cancer, and Health Study were cross-linked with Danish nationwide registries. Eligible participants were aged 50–65 years, had no previous history of atherosclerotic cardiovascular disease, and had completed a food-frequency questionnaire at baseline. We examined associations between flavonoid intake (calculated from food-frequency questionnaires with use of the Phenol-Explorer database) and hospital admissions for atherosclerotic cardiovascular disease, ischaemic heart disease, ischaemic stroke, or peripheral arterial disease. We obtained hazard ratios (HRs) using restricted cubic splines based on Cox proportional hazards models.
Of the participants recruited to the Danish Diet, Cancer, and Health study between 1993 and 1997, our study population was comprised of 53 552 participants, with a median follow-up of 21 years (IQR 15–22). During follow-up, 8773 participants were admitted to hospital for atherosclerotic cardiovascular disease. We observed non-linear associations between flavonoid intake and hospital admissions, plateauing at total flavonoid intakes of approximately 1000 mg per day. Compared with an intake of 175 mg per day, an intake of 1000 mg per day was associated with a 14% lower risk of atherosclerotic cardiovascular disease (HR 0·86, 95% CI 0·81–0·91). For disease subtypes, we observed a 9% lower risk of ischaemic heart disease (0·91, 0·85–0·98), a non-significant 9% lower risk of ischaemic stroke (0·91, 0·82–1·01), and a 32% lower risk of peripheral artery disease (0·68, 0·60–0·78). The overall associations were stronger in smokers than in non-smokers, as well as stronger in consumers of high (>20 g per day) quantities of alcohol than in those consuming low-to-moderate (≤20 g per day) quantities.
Our results suggest that ensuring an adequate consumption of flavonoid-rich foods, particularly in subpopulations at risk of atherosclerosis such as smokers and consumers of high quantities of alcohol might mitigate some of the risk of atherosclerotic cardiovascular disease. More studies are needed to support and validate these data.