Unable to manage your blood pressure levels? Eating flavonoid-rich foods like berries, apples, pears and drinking red wine can lower systolic blood pressure levels, as well as improve greater diversity in gut microbiome, according to new research.

The study, published in the journal Hypertension, showed that up to 15.2 per cent of the association between flavonoid-rich foods and systolic blood pressure could be explained by the diversity found in participants' gut microbiome.

Blood Pressure
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Flavonoids are broken down by the body's gut microbiome - the bacteria found in the digestive tract.

Eating 1.6 servings of berries per day (one serving equals 80 grams, or 1 cup) was associated with an average reduction in systolic blood pressure levels of 4.1 mm Hg, and about 12 per cent of the association was explained by gut microbiome factors.

Drinking 2.8 glasses (125 ml of wine per glass) of red wine a week was associated with an average of 3.7 mm Hg lower systolic blood pressure level, of which 15 per cent could be explained by the gut microbiome.

"Our gut microbiome plays a key role in metabolising flavonoids to enhance their cardioprotective effects, and this study provides evidence to suggest these blood pressure-lowering effects are achievable with simple changes to the daily diet," said lead investigator Aedin Cassidy, chair and professor in nutrition and preventive medicine at the Institute for Global Food Security at Queen's University in Belfast, Northern Ireland.

Recent studies also found a link between gut microbiota -- the microorganisms in the human digestive tract -- and cardiovascular disease (CVD), which is the leading cause of death worldwide.

Gut microbiota is highly variable between individuals, and there are reported differences in gut microbial compositions among people with and without CVD.

With increased research suggesting flavonoids may reduce heart disease risk, this study assessed the role of the gut microbiome on the process.

Researchers examined the association between eating flavonoid-rich foods with blood pressure and gut microbiome diversity. The study also investigated how much variance within the gut microbiome could explain the association between intake of flavonoid-rich foods and blood pressure.

The study evaluated 904 adults' food intake, gut microbiome and blood pressure levels together with other clinical and molecular phenotyping at regular follow-up examinations.