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Phenolic acids are secondary plant metabolites that may have protective effects against oxidative stress, inflammation and cancer in experimental studies. To date, limited data exist on the quantitative intake of phenolic acids. We estimated the intake of phenolic acids and their food sources and associated lifestyle factors in the European Prospective Investigation into Cancer and Nutrition (EPIC) study. Phenolic acid intakes were estimated for 36 037 subjects aged 35–74 years and recruited between 1992 and 2000 in ten European countries using a standardised 24 h recall software (EPIC-Soft), and their food sources were identified. Dietary data were linked to the Phenol-Explorer database, which contains data on forty-five aglycones of phenolic acids in 452 foods. The total phenolic acid intake was highest in Aarhus, Denmark (1265·5 and 980·7 mg/d in men and women, respectively), while the intake was lowest in Greece (213·2 and 158·6 mg/d in men and women, respectively). The hydroxycinnamic acid subclass was the main contributor to the total phenolic acid intake, accounting for 84·6–95·3 % of intake depending on the region. Hydroxybenzoic acids accounted for 4·6–14·4 %, hydroxyphenylacetic acids 0·1–0·8 % and hydroxyphenylpropanoic acids ≤ 0·1 % for all regions. An increasing south–north gradient of consumption was also found. Coffee was the main food source of phenolic acids and accounted for 55·3–80·7 % of the total phenolic acid intake, followed by fruits, vegetables and nuts. A high heterogeneity in phenolic acid intake was observed across the European countries in the EPIC cohort, which will allow further exploration of the associations with the risk of diseases.
Different lifestyle patterns across Europe may influence plasma concentrations of B-vitamins and one-carbon metabolites and their relation to chronic disease. Comparison of published data on one-carbon metabolites in Western European regions is difficult due to differences in sampling procedures and analytical methods between studies. The present study aimed, to compare plasma concentrations of one-carbon metabolites in Western European regions with one laboratory performing all biochemical analyses. We performed the present study in the European Prospective Investigation into Cancer and Nutrition (EPIC) cohort among 5446 presumptively healthy individuals. Quantile regression was used to compare sex-specific median concentrations between Northern (Denmark and Sweden), Central (France, Germany, The Netherlands and United Kingdom) and Southern (Greece, Spain and Italy) European regions. The lowest folate concentrations were observed in Northern Europe (men, 10·4 nmol/l; women, 10·7 nmol/l) and highest concentrations in Central Europe. Cobalamin concentrations were slightly higher in Northern Europe (men, 330 pmol/l; women, 352 pmol/l) compared with Central and Southern Europe, but did not show a clear north–south gradient. Vitamin B2 concentrations were highest in Northern Europe (men, 22·2 nmol/l; women, 26·0 nmol/l) and decreased towards Southern Europe (Ptrend< 0·001). Vitamin B6 concentrations were highest in Central Europe in men (77·3 nmol/l) and highest in the North among women (70·4 nmol/l), with decreasing concentrations towards Southern Europe in women (Ptrend< 0·001). In men, concentrations of serine, glycine and sarcosine increased from the north to south. In women, sarcosine increased from Northern to Southern Europe. These findings may provide relevant information for the study of regional differences of chronic disease incidence in association with lifestyle.
A greater adherence to the traditional Mediterranean (MED) diet is associated with a reduced risk of developing chronic diseases. This dietary pattern is based on higher consumption of plant products that are rich in flavonoids. We compared the total flavonoid dietary intakes, their food sources and various lifestyle factors between MED and non-MED countries participating in the EPIC study. Flavonoid intakes and their food sources for 35 628 subjects, aged 35–74 years and recruited between 1992 and 2000, in twenty-six study centres were estimated using standardised 24 h dietary recall software (EPIC-Soft®). An ad hoc food composition database on flavonoids was compiled using analytical data from the United States Department of Agriculture and Phenol-Explorer databases. Moreover, it was expanded to include using recipes, estimations of missing values and flavonoid retention factors. No significant differences in total flavonoid mean intake between non-MED countries (373·7 mg/d) and MED countries (370·2 mg/d) were observed. In the non-MED region, the main contributors were proanthocyanidins (48·2 %) and flavan-3-ol monomers (24·9 %) and the principal food sources were tea (25·7 %) and fruits (32·8 %). In the MED region, proanthocyanidins (59·0 %) were by far the most abundant contributor and fruits (55·1 %), wines (16·7 %) and tea (6·8 %) were the main food sources. The present study shows similar results for total dietary flavonoid intakes, but significant differences in flavonoid class intakes, food sources and some characteristics between MED and non-MED countries. These differences should be considered in studies about the relationships between flavonoid intake and chronic diseases.
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