Flavonoids: A Disease Fighter in our Fruits?

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What are flavonoids?

Flavonoids are a specific group of phytonutrients, or plant chemicals, which exist in most fruits and vegetables. Flavonoids are a section of the polyphenol class of phytonutrients and make up the largest percentage of plant chemicals in existence, with over 6000 varieties. The types of flavonoids which have real health benefits for humans include anthocyanidins, flavones, flavanols, flavonols and isoflavones. Different fruits and vegetables have varying levels of these types of flavonoids, so if you only eat one type of fruit or vegetable, you will not have much of some other types of flavonoids. In recent times, research into the uses of flavonoids in the human body has been conducted, looking at how to best get the most useful flavonoids, how they can suppress and prevent disease, and the general health benefits of putting flavonoids into the body.2 

What specific diseases do they prevent?

As mentioned before, different flavonoids prevent and suppress different diseases. This results in people ingesting an appropriate level of flavonoids, and extending their lifetimes. This is proven by a 25-year research study, which was finally published in 1995 by the ‘Archives of Internal Medicine’, a renowned medical journal. This study looked at men in seven countries as part of its research. For the first time, it was shown that the intake of flavonoids might account for about 25 percent of the extension in life expectancy, for patients with coronary heart disease or cancer.3 There are many types of flavonoids which may improve longevity of people:

  • Anthocyanidins act against cardiovascular diseases, obesity and diabetes, both Type 1 and Type 2
  • Flavonones prevent cardiovascular diseases
  • Isoflavones are suspected to prevent hormonal cancers like prostate, endometrial and breast cancers. Although this sounds great, this judgement is yet to be fully proven
  • Flavanols have properties which counter the symptoms of hay fever and hives. They also prevent many chronic diseases from developing, due to flavonols having high anti-inflammatory and antioxidant attributes.

What common diseases can all flavonoids deal with?

Most flavonoids have traits which can all protect against different diseases, with similar effect. For example, flavonoids can help decrease obesity, a massive problem in the West, where incomes are higher than elsewhere, and so more people eat excessively. To decrease obesity, flavonoids decrease the levels of leptin, an appetite-suppressing hormone, which although sounds counterintuitive, actually works. To explore this, scientists like Premkumar used rats with problems with leptin, which for somewhat unknown reasons become less obese than others. However, this finding is highly debated as in some cases flavonoids can help people with obesity, but it does not always work.1

Flavonoids all have anti-inflammatory and anti-oxidant abilities which can stop many neurodegenerative diseases like Alzheimer’s and Parkinson’s from developing. In various animal studies, it has been shown that higher levels of flavonoids directly correlate with lower risks of neurodegenerative diseases.3

How to get flavonoids:

Many flavonoids are found in fruits and vegetables, which are readily available in supermarkets and grocery stores. However, if you want consume a range of flavonoids, you will have to resort to buying supplements of these phytonutrients, which are found in many pharmaceutical stores. 

To reduce the chance of your body not absorbing some of the important flavonoids, consume fruits and vegetables with vibrant colours, or when they are ripe. Also, do not cut up your fruit as most flavonoids in fruits and vegetables are found in the skin of these products. By cutting the fruit or vegetable, you are damaging its skin, and therefore reducing the flavonoids you are ingesting.4

Flavonoids are essential to longevity in animals, and while cures for diseases like Alzheimer’s have not been found yet, we can try to prevent these horrific diseases through the use of such nutrients.


References

  1. Szalay, J., 2015. What Are Flavonoids?. [online] livescience.com. Available at: <https://www.livescience.com/52524-flavonoids.html> [Accessed 24 May 2020].
  2. Hertog, M., 1995. Flavonoid Intake And Long-Term Risk Of Coronary Heart Disease And Cancer In The Seven Countries Study. [online] PubMed. Available at: <https://pubmed.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/7848021/> [Accessed 24 May 2020].
  3. Williams, R., 2014. Flavonoids In The Diet: Could They Help Prevent Alzheimer’S Disease?. [online] Alzheimer’s Society. Available at: <https://www.alzheimers.org.uk/research/our-research/research-projects/flavonoids-diet-could-they-help-prevent-alzheimers-disease> [Accessed 24 May 2020].
  4. Mcarthy, M., 2020. Alzheimer’s Risk Reduced By Apples And Other Foods With Flavonoids. [online] Healthline. Available at: <https://www.healthline.com/health-news/flavonoids-may-reduce-alzheimers-risk> [Accessed 24 May 2020].
  5. Featured Image-Abba, M., 2017. Flavonoids: What Are They And Their Benefits. [online] Green Ideas. Available at: <https://www.greenideas.net/flavonoids-what-are-they-their-benefits-100802.html> [Accessed 24 May 2020].

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