Nowadays it is accepted that natural flavonoids present in fruits and plant-derived-foods are relevant, not only for technological reasons and organoleptic properties, but also because of their potential health-promoting effects, as suggested by the available experimental and epidemiological evidence. The beneficial biological effects of these food bioactives may be driven by two of their characteristic properties: their affinity for proteins and their antioxidant activity. Over the last 15 years, numerous publications have demonstrated that besides their in vitro
antioxidant capacity, certain phenolic compounds, such as anthocyanins, catechins, proanthocyanidins, and other non coloured flavonoids, may regulate different signaling pathways involved in cell survival, growth and differentiation. In this review we will update the knowledge on the cardiovascular effects of anthocyanins, catechins and proanthocyanidins, as implied by the in vitro
and clinical studies on these compounds. We also review the available information on the structure, distribution and bioavailability of flavanols (monomeric catechins and proanthocyanidins) and anthocyanins, data necessary in order to understand their role in reducing risk factors and preventing cardiovascular health problems through different aspects of their bioefficacy on vascular parameters (platelet agregation, atherosclerosis, blood pressure, antioxidant status, inflammation-related markers, etc.
), myocardial conditions, and whole-body metabolism (serum biochemistry, lipid profile), highlighting the need for better-designed clinical studies to improve the current knowledge on the potential health benefits of these flavonoids to cardiovascular and metabolic health.