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Bioflavonoids

 

Bioflavonoids are a group of naturally occurring phytochemicals that act primarily as plant pigments and flavorants. Numerous compounds fall into this family of substances, linked by some common features in their molecular structure. Subcategories of bioflavonoids include isoflavones, anthocyanidins, flavans, flavonols, flavones, and flavanones.

 

Where are they ?

Bioflavonoids are found in a wide range of foods, particularly fruits and vegetables. For example, flavanones are found in citrus fruits, isoflavones in soy products, anthocyanidins in wine, flavans in apples, and tea and rutin in the buckwheat plant. Other foods high in bioflavonoids include apricots, blackberries, black currants, broccoli, cantaloupe, cherries, grapefuit, grapes, green peppers, papays, plums, tomatoes, as well as coffee and cocoa.

 

Ongoing studies of these compounds are focusing on their potential health-promoting effects:

 

Capillaries are highly permeable blood vessels that allow oxygen, hormones, nutrients, and antibodies to pass from the bloodstream to individual cells. If the capillary walls are fragile, blood will seep out into the cells. this can result in bruising, brain and retinal hemorrhages, bleeding gums, and other abnormalities. Bioflavonoids improve capillary strength by helping to maintain the proper degree of permeability in the capillary wall.

 

Recent research indicates that some bioflavonoids are inhibitors that prevent blood clot formation. These bioflavonoids may be useful in treating phlebitis and other clotting disorders.

 

Bioflavonoids are also believed to protect against heart disease. Resveretrol and quercetin, bioflavonoids in grape skins, are thought to reduce the risk of heart disease among moderate wine drinkers.

 

Many bioflavonoids prevent cellular damage caused by free radicals, unstable molecules that are formed when the body uses oxygen. Some bioflavonoids are used as food preservatives to prevent oxidation of fats. Others enhance the antioxidant action of nutrients.

 

Bioflavonoids enhance the action of vitamin C. Bioflavonoids and vitamin C are present in the same foods, and the body metabolizes both in a similar way. This similarity has led researchers to theorize that some of the functions attributed to vitamin C are actually due to bioflavonoids instead; others feel that the two work together in a synergistic manner.

 

Cancer-causing substances may be hampered by bioflavonoids. Laboratory studies indicate that some bioflavonoids stop or slow the growth of malignant cells; they may also help protect against cancer-causing substances.

 

Some bioflavonoids destroy certain bacteria, retarding food spoilage, and protecting humans from food-borne infections.

 

Potential Therapeutic Uses

A number of bioflavonoids are currently being studied for potential therapeutic uses:

 

Hesperidin, a bioflavonoid in the blossoms and peels of oranges, lemons, and a number of other citrus fruits, is being considered for treating easy bruising and other bleeding abnormalities.

 

Rutin, found in buckwheat leaves and some other plants, is being studied for treating glaucoma and the retinal bleeding in diabetics, as well as for reducing tissue damage from frostbite, radiation exposure, and hemophilia.

 

Quercetin, found in apples, onions, tea, red wine and grapes, raspberries, citrus fruits, cherries, and other foods, is being investigated to improve lung function and lower risk of certain respiratory diseases, such as asthma, bronchitis, and emphysema. It may also help treat or even prevent prostate cancer by blocking male hormones that encourage the growth of prostate cancer cells.

 

Dietary Requirements

No Recommended Dietary Allowance (RDA) has been established for bioflavonoids, but studies show that if a diet contains enough fruits and vegetables to supply 60 mg of vitamin C, it will provide adequate bioflavonoids. Good sources of vitamin C include oranges, lemons, cantaloupe. tomatoes, blackberries, broccoli, and green peppers.

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