At age 29, Sarah was perplexed and embarrassed by a pattern of spider veins and small varicose veins on her legs and a tendency to develop dark bruises from the slightest bumps.
The reasons became clear when she consulted a nutritionally oriented physician. Sarah was eating mostly at fast-food restaurants and rarely ate vitamin C—rich vegetables or fruits.
The doctor recommended eating more salads and fruits, and improved nutrition overall. He also suggested that she take a combination of vitamin C (1,000 mg) and flavonoid (1,000 mg) supplements, which are known to strengthen blood vessel walls and reduce the risk of bruising. Within a couple of weeks of starting those supplements, Sarah’s bruises disappeared.
After several months, both the spider veins and varicose veins diminished.
THE BASICS: It might surprise you to learn that the antioxidant power of fruits and vegetables does not come entirely from vitamin C. In fact, the vast majority of these antioxidants belong to a family of compounds technically known as polyphenolic flavonoids. Flavonoids tend to be concentrated in the skins of fruits and vegetables.
ALIAS: Researchers have categorized flavonoids into several groups—including anthocyanidins, flavonols, flavones, and flavanones—because of common features in their chemical structures. However, consumers tend to recognize flavonoids by their individual names, such as Pycnogenol, resveratrol, quercetin, and grape seed extract.
HOW THEY WORK: As antioxidants, flavonoids neutralize free radicals. But because no single antioxidant can quench them all, it makes sense to consume a variety. Many flavonoids also have potent anti-inflammatory activity, and they seem to be important regulators of some genes. Higher intake of flavonoids is associated with a significantly lower risk of cardiovascular disease, cancer, and diabetes.
HEALTH BENEFITS: Supplemental flavonoids benefit health in many ways. Here’s a quick overview:
BACKGROUND CHECK: When researchers first identified and isolated flavonoids in the 1930s, they were referred to as vitamin P. The P represented the “permeability” factor because a lack of dietary flavonoids led to highly permeable (or leaky) blood vessels, as evidenced by abnormal bruising.
GLEANINGS: It’s best to consume a diverse variety of flavonoids. If you’re trying to resolve a particular health problem, try adding one type of flavonoid supplement. If that doesn’t help, switch to a different kind.
HEADS UP: Herbs, such as ginkgo and ginseng, contain very distinctive types of flavonoids—many of which are not found in other plants. That is likely why they have very specific benefits.
WHAT YOU SHOULD TAKE: Dosages vary depending on the type of flavonoid supplement; follow label directions.
Many flavonoids, such as luteolin, are usually combined with other flavonoids, which often has a synergistic effect.
Product Examples (from left)
ReserveAge organics the world’s finest Resveratrol is formulated with all-natural ingredients to maximize health and longevity. Contains trans-resveratrol, the active form of resveratrol, which helps the body resist mental and physical aging.
Natural Factors Grape Seed Extract is standardized to provide no less than 95 percent proanthocyanidins for natural antioxidant protection. Potency and purity of the powdered grape seed extract is guaranteed.
Twinlab Pycnogenol contains 30 mg Pycnogenol in each capsule. This formula is standardized to guarantee 95 percent proanthocyanidins, phenolics, and flavonoids.
Bluebonnet Super Quercetin provides high-potency quercetin, along with citrus bioflavonoids, vitamin C, rose hips, and bromelain from pineapple.