Mar 09

Bioflavonoids Overview Information



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Bioflavonoids are a large family of substances found in most of the same foods that are good sources of vitamin C. In fact, researchers have identified more than 8,000 naturally occurring bioflavonoid structures. Bioflavonoids (also called flavonoids) are the natural pigments that give fruits and vegetables their color.

Sometimes bioflavonoids are referred to as “vitamin P,” but it has not been proven that these substance meet the requirements to be called a vitamin. Vitamins are organic compounds that are essential for normal growth and nutrition and are required in the diet because they cannot be synthesized by the body. It has not been proven that all bioflavonoids are essential to human health.

Studies of specific bioflavonoids, however, have revealed health benefits. Quercetin, for example, appears to stabilize the membranes of cells that release histamine, a compound involved in allergic and inflammatory reactions. Found in buckwheat and citrus fruits, quercetin may help prevent seasonal allergies.

Rutin, another bioflavonoid, may be useful for the prevention of easy bruising and other bleeding abnormalities. Rutin is found in buckwheat, capers and other plants.

And recent research suggests apigenin — a bioflavonoid found in celery, parsley, red wine, tomato sauce and other plant-based foods — may reduce the risk of ovarian cancer.

Bioflavonoids and vitamin C appear to work together in the body. Researchers believe benefits credited solely to vitamin C in the past actually may be due to the combined action of vitamin C and specific bioflavonoids. Some of these combined effects include:

  • Reduced risk of heart disease
  • Reduced risk of certain cancers
  • Certain anti-aging effects
  • Protection against infections
  • Strengthened walls of blood vessels
  • Improved blood circulation
  • Decreased blood cholesterol
  • Improved liver function

Almost any food containing vitamin C also contains bioflavonoids.

Bilberry, a plant closely related to the blueberry, is the source of bioflavonoids often touted as being good for your eyes. Bilberries are also called huckleberries or whortleberries in some regions.

Bilberries and blueberries both contain high amounts of anthocyanins — flavonoid pigments that are powerful antioxidants. Anthocyanins may help reduce the risk of cataracts and macular degeneration and help maintain the health of the cornea and blood vessels in various parts of the eye.

Researchers also are investigating other potential eye benefits of anthocyanins, including the possibility these and other bioflavonoids may help reduce inflammatory eye disease and diabetic retinopathy.

In addition to bilberries and blueberries, other good sources of anthocyanins include acai fruit, cherries, plums, cranberries, raspberries, eggplant, red and purple grapes and red wine.

Like vitamin C, bioflavonoids are water-soluble and nontoxic, even at high doses. No RDA has been established for bioflavonoids at this time.

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