Potential of Food and Natural Products to Promote Endothelial and Vascular Health

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Endothelial dysfunction is now well established as a pivotal early event in the development of major cardiovascular diseases including hypertension, atherosclerosis, and diabetes. The alteration of the endothelial function is often triggered by an imbalance between the endothelial formation of vasoprotective factors including nitric oxide (NO) and endothelium-dependent hyperpolarization, and an increased level of oxidative stress involving several prooxidant enzymes such as NADPH oxidase and, often also, the appearance of cyclooxygenase-derived vasoconstrictors. Preclinical studies have indicated that polyphenol-rich food and food-derived products such as grape-derived products, black and red berries, green and black teas and cocoa, and omega-3 fatty acids can trigger activating pathways in endothelial cells promoting an increased formation of nitric oxide and endothelium-dependent hyperpolarization. Moreover, intake of such food-derived products has been associated with the prevention and/or the improvement of an established endothelial dysfunction in several experimental models of cardiovascular diseases and in humans with cardiovascular diseases. This review will discuss both experimental and clinical evidences indicating that different types of food and natural products are able to promote endothelial and vascular health, as well as the underlying mechanisms.

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