The Magic Missing Piece
By Jack Challem
How wonder compounds known as flavonoids can help crush your chances of getting diabetes, cancer, heart disease, and more.

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:

  • Pycnogenol. A complex of more than 40 antioxidants, this proprietary extract of French maritime pine trees has potent anti-inflammatory benefits at dosages above 150 mg daily and can reduce pain stemming from osteoarthritis of the knees. Recent research has focused on its benefits in diabetes. Still other research indicates that it can lower blood pressure.
  • Grape seed extract. This common supplement is also a complex of naturally occurring polyphenolic flavonoids called oligomeric proanthocyanidins or OPCs. Based mostly on cell and animal experiments, grape seed extract may have benefits in reducing the risk of cardiovascular disease and cancer.
  • Resveratrol. Found in red grape skins, red wine, peanuts, and Japanese knotweed, resveratrol has attracted widespread interest because it increases the activity of the SIRT1 gene and sirtuin enzymes, which appear to regulate metabolism and the aging process. In animal studies, resveratrol increased life span by about 15 percent. It also helped the animals maintain lower blood sugar and insulin levels.
  • Citrus flavonoids. Found in oranges, grapefruit, lemons, and limes, this family of flavonoids has diverse benefits. Naringin and naringenin (found in grapefruit) may reduce the risk of oral cancers. Naringenin also blocks the secretion of the hepatitis C virus from infected cells, which may help control this chronic infection.
  • Quercetin. This flavonoid, found in apples and onions, may help to relieve allergies and asthma and lower blood pressure. Some research has found that quercetin may help to treat chronic prostatitis.
  • Luteolin. This flavonoid, found in celery and green bell peppers, is a potent inflammatory. In recent experiments, it was found to block the production of interleukin-6, a powerful promoter of inflammation, and to reduce brain inflammation, a factor in Alzheimer’s disease.

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.

  • Pycnogenol and grape seed/skin extract: 50 to 200 mg one to two times daily.
  • Resveratrol: up to 300 mg per day, or a glass of red wine daily.
  • Citrus bioflavonoids: 250 to 1,000 mg one to two times daily.
  • Quercetin: 250 to 500 mg one to four times daily.

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.

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