Eating your way to a stronger old age: The power of flavanols

Fruits such as apples and blackberries are rich in the compounds and promote healthy ageing

Flavanol-rich foods like apples and blackberries could lower the chances of frailty in old age, researchers say. Getty
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A diet rich in flavonols, a compound found in plant-based foods, may help lower the chances of becoming weak and less resilient as we age, say researchers.

A study highlights the importance of considering various food types, beyond protein, for maintaining strength and vitality in our later years.

“It turns out there may be some truth to the old saying, an apple a day keeps the doctor away, or in this case, frailty at bay,” the researchers said.

The study, from the Hinda and Arthur Marcus Institute for Aging Research, found that consuming an additional 10 mg of flavonols a day – the amount contained in a medium-sized apple – could reduce the odds of frailty by 20 per cent.

While there was no significant link between total flavonoid intake and frailty, higher flavonols intake was associated with lower odds of becoming frail.

Among all flavonoids, quercetin, present in foods like apples and blackberries, showed the strongest association with frailty prevention.

Drinking tea, a rich source of flavonols, may also contribute to improved strength and resilience in older age. Getty

Harnessing the power of flavonols

This study, published in the American Journal of Clinical Nutrition, is one of the first to comprehensively examine the role of dietary flavonoids for frailty prevention.

The researchers used data from the Framingham Heart Study to investigate the link between flavonoid intake and frailty onset among 1,701 people.

“Higher quercetin intake was the flavonoid that had the strongest association with frailty prevention. This data suggests that there may be particular subclasses of flavonoids that have the most potential as a dietary strategy for frailty prevention,” said co-authors, Dr Shivani Sahni, and Dr Courtney Millar.

Frailty, a geriatric syndrome that leads to a greater risk of falls, fractures, disability, and hospitalisation, affects 10 per cent to 15 per cent of older adults. Given the high prevalence of this condition, strategies for prevention are crucial.

Future implications

These findings open up new avenues for future research, particularly focusing on dietary interventions of flavonols or quercetin for treating frailty.

The authors suggest that similar research should be conducted among racially and ethnically diverse participants to understand better the potential benefits of flavonols and quercetin across different populations.

The study highlights the importance of assessing specific subclasses of flavonoids and the potential of dietary flavonols and quercetin as strategies to prevent the onset of frailty.

So, next time you're at the grocery store, consider reaching for the apples and blackberries – your future self may thank you.

Updated: May 23, 2023, 1:10 PM