A practical guide for nutritional and traditional health care.
Flavonoids are an important class of plant based compounds. Scientist have identified upwards of four thousand flavonoids or the “bioflavonoids” - when used in supplements. This number may just be the tip of the iceberg as scientists believe that many more compounds of this class still can be discovered in the plant world. As a class of plant based compounds, the flavonoids are responsible for the color in many fruits and vegetables, as well as herbs. They are also found in high amounts in most legumes, in grains, as well as nuts. Flavonoids are considered to be very beneficial compounds due to their potent nature as antioxidants. In this role, certain types of flavonoids are considered to be far more powerful than the most common antioxidants vitamin C and vitamin E at preventing cellular damage brought on by free radicals - unstable oxygen molecules which are the natural byproducts of metabolism. However, the healing potential of only a few flavonoids has been clinically investigated up till now.
The flavonoid quercetin, which is abundant in foods like onions and apples, is important because it acts as a building block for many other flavonoids. Among the class of citrus flavonoids, the compounds rutin and hesperidin are the most active compounds, as the name of these compounds suggests, they are present in fruits such as oranges, grapefruits, tangerines, as well as in all other common citrus fruits.
Some other well known flavonoids include compounds such as the PCOs (or procyanidolic oligomers; also called proanthocyanidins), the pigment class of anthocyanosides, the polyphenols, and the genistein class of compounds. The class of flavonoids called PCOs are very plentiful in the bark of pine trees and in the grape seed extracts as well as red wine - the pine bark extracts are available in the form of pycnogenol. The class of pigment anthocyanosides is common in the herb bilberry as well as some other herbs. The polyphenols are found in large amounts in green tea, which is the primary source for this class of flavonoids, the EGCG - epigallocatechin-gallate, in particular - many scientific experts believe that this compound is the most effective cancer fighting compound found in the natural world. The flavonoid genistein, that is found in most soy products is an estrogen mimic and has potent antioxidant properties as well.
The ability to limit inflammation gives the flavonoids their disease fighting potential, they actively prevent the release of histamine in the body - this is the agent responsible for most allergy symptoms like congestion. The flavonoids also actively scavenge free radicals; they tend to boost immune system functioning, and strengthen the blood vessels, thereby increasing the blood flow, among other beneficial effects.
As they are capable of inhibiting changes in the body that can cause blockages in the arteries, the flavonoids quercetin and the PCOs may be able to protect against the development of certain types of heart disease and related circulatory disorders; these flavonoid compounds are also helpful in that they strengthen and maintain the integrity of various blood vessels in the body in a variety of ways - precluding the onset of diseases. The benefits of a high flavonoid diet were confirmed in recent studies conducted in Finland and the Netherlands, in these tests, people who generally obtained large amounts of flavonoids, especially quercetin, in the duet tended to have a reduced risk of developing heart disease or suffering from a stroke. For example, the results from one specific study, where subjects were kept on a diet high in flavonoids, the chances of any of them dying from heart disease was reduced by a fifty per cent in the tested women and by a factor of twenty three percent in the tested men. The results from another study showed that the highest flavonoid intake led to a drop in the risk of stroke for men by a factor of seventy five per cent when compared to the men who had the lowest supplemental levels.
One other probable use of the flavonoids such as quercetin and the other polyphenols is their great promise as anticancer or anti-carcinogenic agents. In clinical studies, the lowest rates for stomach, as well as pancreatic, lung, and possibly breast cancer was noted in people who consumed large amounts of these flavonoids as a part of their diet. Additionally, the consumption of large volumes of the soy based flavonoid genistein may also possibly help in the fight against breast cancer; it is also believed to reduce hot flashes in women by interacting with the various estrogen receptors in the body - thus being a possible remedy for hormonal imbalances. The flavonoid quercetin is also believed to help the body utilize blood sugar better and therefore, it may have an important role in preventing diabetes and related blood sugar problems.
The flavonoid compound quercetin is anti-inflammatory in action, and may probably be used to bring relief from allergic reactions including hay fever, as well as sinusitis, and chronic asthma - this flavonoid compound blocks all the allergic reactions to pollen and effectively reduces the inflammation affecting the airways and the lungs of the person. In fact, its great effectiveness as an anti-inflammatory agent makes it ideal for the treatment of minor problems like bug bites, skin disorders such as eczema, and related disorders of the skin. This anti-inflammatory compound is also useful for the treatment of inflammatory disorders affecting the muscles and the joints, including problems like rheumatoid arthritis, chronic gout, and fibromyalgia and related disorders. Flavonoids are also beneficial as supplements as they tend to strengthen the blood vessels, the PCOs and citrus flavonoids are in particular very helpful in repairing problems like varicose veins and chronic hemorrhoids. Problems such as bruising and scrapes are easily dealt with using two flavonoids - the flavonoid rutin and the citrus based flavonoid, hesperidin.
Doses of flavonoids will differ depending on the type of flavonoid used and the specific condition. To boost general long term health, the best bet is a flavonoid mixture which is a combination of several types including the quercetin, rutin, and the hesperidins. The dosage instructions written on the product label must be followed. A dose of five hundred mg of quercetin taken thrice a day is sufficient for dealing with all kinds of allergies, chronic asthma, gout, and insect bites.
Flavonoids are found in high amounts in the extracts of grape seeds and in green tea, these induce a potent antioxidant effect at the cellular level and are extremely beneficial for health. To boost the beneficial protective action of the flavonoids, they are usually combined with the vitamin C in supplements - this may also improve the taste. The ideal time to consume supplements of quercetin is twenty minutes before meals; the other types of flavonoids can be consumed at any time of the day for a variety of problems.
Side effects and cautions
The use of flavonoids in supplements is not linked to any known side effects, and there are no toxicities, adverse reactions, related to the use of supplemental flavonoids to date. They are quite safe.
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