It seems as if “bioflavonoid” is a popular buzzword for the health conscious. But what are bioflavonoids and why are they helpful?
In the past “Bioflavonoids” were often referred collectively as vitamin P. Bioflavonoids are a group of naturally occurring plant compounds, which act primarily in nature as plant pigments, metabolic enhancers, chemical messengers within the plant and also fight various plant infections. In humans, they exhibit a host of biological activities, most notably powerful antioxidant properties. More than 5,000 bioflavonoids have been identified as of now.
Bioflavonoids work with other antioxidants to offer a system of protection. Numerous studies have shown their unique role in protecting vitamin C from oxidation in the body, thereby allowing the body to reap more benefits from vitamin C.
Bioflavonoids are present in all botanical supplement products and foods. In fact, many medicinal herbs owe their curative actions to the bioflavonoids they contain. Besides the important antioxidant effects, bioflavonoids help the body maintain health and function in many ways. They have been shown to be anti-mutagenic, anti-carcinogenic, anti-aging, and promote structure and function in the circulatory system.
Bioflavonoids Health Benefits
The main health benefits of bioflavonoids fall into two categories: health-promoting effects and therapeutic effects. The health-promoting effects are suggested to include better eyesight, improved cardiovascular health, increased capillary strength, improved structure of connective tissues and appearance of skin, and a stronger immune system.
It has been suggested that bioflavonoids offer the health-promoting effect of lowering the risk of some diseases, such as atherosclerosis, cancer, arthritis, and gastrointestinal disorders. They have been studied for potential therapeutic applications include treating a variety of diseases and disorders. Several of these are coronary heart disease, allergies, inflammation, hemorrhoids, respiratory diseases, viral infections, some types of cancer, and peptic ulcers.
Different bioflavonoids have different health effects on the body. Some of the common bioflavonoids and their benefits are outlined below.
Beta-carotene is converted to vitamin A within the body. This bioflavonoid provides color to dark green leafy and yellow vegetables. A large study of male smokers in Finland showed that intake of beta-carotene was associated with a lower incidence of stroke. A note of caution is required here because several studies have shown that beta carotene supplements were also associated with increased risk of lung cancer in smokers. Dark green and orange-yellow vegetables are good sources of beta-carotene. These include carrots, sweet potatoes, squash, spinach, romaine lettuce, broccoli, apricots, and green peppers.
Quercetin’s primary use is for the relief of allergies and inflammation. In scientific experiments, it was found to be an effective inhibitor of histamine release from mast cells – the cause of allergic reactions.
Pycnogenol™ extracted from pine bark is thought to have cardiovascular benefits, boost the immune system, help improve the appearance of the skin, help varicose veins, provide relief from arthritic pain, improve asthmatic symptoms in children and help reduce inflammation.
Grape seed extract is thought to provide beneficial effects on the circulatory system. Some of these include improvements to cardiovascular health, protective antioxidant effects, improved eye health, and anti-inflammatory action.
Green tea extract may play a beneficial role in protecting against certain infections, improving cardiovascular health, promoting better dental hygiene, and offering protection from the development of some types of cancer.
Bioflavonoids are most beneficial when taken in raw, fresh forms. Fruits and vegetables are usually high in bioflavonoids, but they are best taken in their raw form instead of cooked or canned forms. Foods with high bioflavonoid content include black and green tea, blueberries, parsley, bananas, citrus fruit and dark chocolate.
Other than consuming bioflavonoids naturally by foods, they are also available in supplements. These supplements can be bought at most health stores.
However, be careful which brand of bioflavonoid supplements you use. These supplements have not been FDA approved, and some supplements even have been found to contain metal.
A study published in the August 2000 issue of Free Radical Biology and Medicine states that excessive use of bioflavonoids can be toxic. This is why it is important to proceed with caution when using bioflavonoids supplements.
If you consume too much flavonoids, you may experience diarrhea, abdominal pain, nausea, and vomiting. However, the main symptom of a flavonoid overdose is diarrhea. Also, too much flavonoids in the body may even be linked to cancer. Some scientists suggest that overusage of flavonoids can promote cancer by damaging the chromosomes and DNA in cells, which can leave the person vulnerable and easier to form cancer.
The most recent scientific breakthroughs confirm that these powerful nutrients are an important part of a healthy diet. Studies from around the world support the fact that diets high in bioflavonoids are associated with lower incidences of many diseases but that caution is needed to prevent undesirable side effects. Along with other phytonutrients, the health benefits of bioflavonoids are one reason why the National Institutes of Health and the U.S. Surgeon General’s office advocate the intake of several servings of fruits and vegetables every day. Powerful, health-promoting nutrients from nature – the virtues of plants will never cease to amaze us.