Fruits and vegetables are key foods whose high ingestion is associated with the improvement of numerous pathological conditions, including hypertension. Such health promoting actions have been increasingly ascribed to the antioxidant characteristics of different polyphenols in fruits and vegetables. Consequently, based on this assumption, many beverages and foods rich in polyphenols, grape, tea, cocoa, and soy products and many of their chemical constituents purified, are being studied both, as antioxidants and antihypertensive agents. This paper reviews the current evidence linking high polyphenol consumption with reductions in blood pressure. Basic chemical aspects of flavanols, flavonols, isoflavones and stilbenes, as possible responsible for the observed effects of those foods on blood pressure are included. Human intervention studies by using grapes and wine, cocoa and chocolate, black and green tea, soy products, and purified compounds ((+)-catequin, quercetin, (-)-epigallocatechin gallate) are summarized. The discussed hypothesis, strongly supported by experimental data in animals, is that by regulating nitric oxide bioavailability, polyphenols present in fruits and vegetables affect endothelial function and as a consequence, blood pressure. Even when data are not definitive and many questions remain open, the whole evidence is encouraging to start considering diets that can provide benefits to hypertensive subjects, and those benefits will be more significant in people that do not have controlled his/her elevated blood pressure.
Keywords: Antioxidants, hypertension, nitric oxide, NOS, NOX, renin-angiotensin, polyphenols, antihypertensive agents, isoflavones, stilbenes, catequin, quercetin, epigallocatechin gallate, blood pressure (BP), diastolic BP, antihypertensive drugs, micronutrients, nitric oxide (NO), reactive oxygen species, ROS, heterogeneity, flavonoids, resveratrol, anthocyanidins, Flavanols, proanthocyanidins, procyanidins, Flavonols, kaempferol, myricetin, legumes, soybeans, glucosides, acetylglucosides, malonylglucosides, nitric oxide synthase (NOS), endothelial (eNOS), proinflammatory cytokines, renin-angiotensin system (RAS), sodium retention, vasoconstriction, cardiovascular mortality, antihypertensive, hypercholesterolemic, epigallocatechin gallate (EGCG), flow mediated dilation (FMD), S-nitrosothiols, SHR (spontaneously hypertensive rats), hesperidin, catechin oligomers, theobromine, catechol-O-methyl transferase (COMT)