British Journal of Nutrition

Full Papers

Fruit polyphenols and CVD risk: a review of human intervention studies

Mary F.-F. Chonga1, Rory Macdonalda1 and Julie A. Lovegrovea1 c1

a1 Hugh Sinclair Unit of Human Nutrition and Institute for Cardiovascular and Metabolic Research, Department of Food and Nutritional Sciences, University of Reading, Whiteknights, PO Box 266, Reading, Berkshire RG6 6AP, UK


Epidemiological evidence suggests that polyphenols may, in part, explain the cardioprotective properties of fruits. This review aims to summarise the evidence for the effects of fruit polyphenols on four risk factors of CVD: platelet function, blood pressure, vascular function and blood lipids. This review includes human dietary intervention studies investigating fruits and their polyphenols. There was some evidence to suggest that fruits containing relatively high concentrations of flavonols, anthocyanins and procyanindins, such as pomegranate, purple grapes and berries, were effective at reducing CVD risk factors, particularly with respect to anti-hypertensive effects, inhibition of platelet aggregation and increasing endothelial-dependent vasodilation than other fruits investigated. Flavanone-rich fruits, such as oranges and grapefruits, were reported to have hypocholesterolaemic effects, with little impact on other risk factors being examined. However, the evidence was limited, inconsistent and often inconclusive. This is in part due to the heterogeneity in the design of studies, the lack of controls, the relatively short intervention periods and low power in several studies. Details of the polyphenol content of the fruits investigated were also omitted in some studies, negating comparison of data. It is recommended that large, well-powered, long-term human dietary intervention studies investigating a wider range of fruits are required to confirm these observations. Investigations into the potential synergistic effects of polyphenols on a combination of CVD risk markers, dose–response relationships and standardisation in methodology would facilitate the comparison of studies and also provide valuable information on the types of fruits which could confer protection against CVD.

(Received February 11 2010)

(Revised May 07 2010)

(Accepted June 02 2010)


Abbreviations: BP, blood pressure; CIMT, carotid intima–media thickness; MeSH, Medical Subject Heading; SBP, systolic blood pressure