A new study from researchers at Harvard and the University of Minnesota has found that dietary flavonoids, such as those found in wine, chocolate, fruits, and vegetables, may protect the heart against the damaging effects of air pollution. Presented at a recent meeting of the American Heart Association, the observational study tracked 573 elderly men in the Boston area for 11 years. During periods of high smog, the men tended to experience reduced heart rate variability—which is associated with an increased risk of death from heart attacks and heart disease in older individuals. Air pollution had an even greater negative impact on the men who had a genetic variant that suppressed their bodies’ ability to detect foreign substances. Nevertheless, researchers discovered that the consumption of dietary flavonoids appeared to reduce the effects of smog on heart rate variability. While the results are encouraging, it’s important to remember that the study only found a link between flavonoids and increased protection against air pollution and additional clinical research is still needed to establish a cause-and-effect relationship. The results are also considered preliminary since they have not yet been published in a peer-reviewed journal.