Tuesday, November 20, 2007

Benefits of Flavonoids

The term flavonoid refers to a class of plant secondary metabolites.

Metabolites is the outcome of the breakdown of certain biochemical compounds in plants.

So what is the benefit of a flavonoid?

Flavonoids are most commonly known for their antioxidant activity.

However, it is now known that the health benefits they provide against cancer and heart disease are the result of other mechanisms.Flavonoids are also commonly referred to as bioflavonoids in the media – the terms are equivalent and interchangeable, for flavonoids are biological in origin.

Flavonoids are widely distributed in plants fulfilling many functions including producing yellow or red/blue pigmentation in flowers and protection from attack by microbes and insects.

The widespread distribution of flavonoids, their variety and their relatively low toxicity compared to other active plant compounds (for instance alkaloids) mean that many animals, including humans, ingest significant quantities in their diet. Flavonoids have been referred to as "nature's biological response modifiers" because of strong experimental evidence of their inherent ability to modify the body's reaction to allergens, viruses, and carcinogens. They show anti-allergic, anti-inflammatory, anti-microbial and anti-cancer activity.

Consumers and food manufacturers have become interested in flavonoids for their medicinal properties, especially their potential role in the prevention of cancers and cardiovascular disease. The beneficial effects of fruit, vegetables, and tea or even red wine have been attributed to flavonoid compounds rather than to known nutrients and vitamins.

In 2007, research conducted at the Linus Pauling Institute and published in Free Radical Biology and Medicine indicates that inside the human body, flavonoids themselves are of little or no direct antioxidant value. Unlike in the controlled conditions of a test tube, flavonoids are poorly absorbed by the human body (less than 5%), and most of what is absorbed is quickly metabolized and excreted from the body.

The huge increase in antioxidant capacity of blood seen after the consumption of flavonoid-rich foods is not caused directly by the flavonoids themselves, but most likely is due to increased uric acid levels that result from expelling flavonoids from the body.

According to Frei, "we can now follow the activity of flavonoids in the body, and one thing that is clear is that the body sees them as foreign compounds and is trying to get rid of them. But this process of gearing up to get rid of unwanted compounds is inducing so-called Phase II enzymes that also help eliminate mutagens and carcinogens, and therefore may be of value in cancer prevention... Flavonoids could also induce mechanisms that help kill cancer cells and inhibit tumor invasion."

Their research also indicated that only small amounts of flavonoids are necessary to see these medical benefits. Taking large dietary supplements provides no extra benefit and may pose some risks.

Good sources of flavonoids include all citrus fruits, berries, onions, parsley, legumes, green tea, red wine, seabuckthorn, and dark chocolate (that with a cocoa content of seventy percent or greater).


Citrus

The citrus bioflavonoids include hesperidin, quercetin, rutin (a glycoside of quercetin), and tangeritin. In addition to possessing antioxidant activity and an ability to increase intracellular levels of vitamin C, rutin and hesperidin exert beneficial effects on capillary permeability and blood flow. They also exhibit some of the anti-allergy and anti-inflammatory benefits of quercetin. Quercetin can also inhibit reverse transcriptase, part of the replication process of retroviruses.

The therapeutical relevance of this inhibition has not been established. Hydroxyethylrutosides (HER) have been used in the treatment of capillary permeability, easy bruising, hemorrhoids, and varicose veins.


Tea

Green tea flavonoids are potent antioxidant compounds, thought to reduce incidence of cancer and heart disease. The major flavonoids in green tea are the catechins (catechin, epicatechin, epicatechin gallate, and epigallocatechin gallate (EGCG)).

In producing teas such as oolong tea and black tea, the leaves are allowed to oxidize, during which enzymes present in the tea convert some or all of the catechins to larger molecules. White tea is the least processed of teas and is shown to present the highest amount of catechins known to occur in camellia sinensis.However, green tea is produced by steaming the fresh-cut leaf, which inactivates these enzymes, and oxidation does not significantly occur.


Wine

Grape skins contain significant amounts of flavonoids as well as other polyphenols. Both red and white wine contain flavonoids; however, since red wine is produced by fermentation in the presence of the grape skins, red wine has been observed to contain higher levels of flavonoids, and other polyphenolics such as resveratrol.

Flavonoids is a type of antioxdants which protect cells by inhibiting cell damage by free radicals. Thus it is very important to consume it for the integrity and longevity of cells.

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