Bioflavonoids (flavonoids or vitamin P) are polyphenolic compounds found in various fruits and vegetables. These compounds have remarkable antioxidant and antiinflammatory properties, which have attracted a lot of public attention lately. In this guide, we will dive deeper into bioflavonoids, their benefits and sources, and reveal the most commonly used types. Let’s begin!
What Are Bioflavonoids?
In nature, these exceptional compounds are widely present in citrus fruit, rosehips, black currants, berries, spinach, apples, and many other fruits and vegetables. Due to their potent properties, bioflavonoids are used to treat different conditions such as osteoarthritis, glaucoma, cataract, dry eye syndrome, diabetic retinopathy, and macular degeneration. As OTC medicine, bioflavonoids are commonly used for improving blood circulation and action of vitamin C. The most famous bioflavonoids are quercetin, apigenin, rutin, luteolin, hesperidin, kaempferol, catechin, fisetin, and flavanols.
In the human body, bioflavonoids achieve diverse effects. We’ll take a closer look at each of them:
Ocular Blood Flow Improvement
These compounds trigger several mechanisms that collectively contribute to maintaining healthy circulation in the eyes. The most important of all is vasodilation (relaxing and widening blood vessels), which enhances blood flow. They are very effective at protecting capillary walls, which are vital for maintaining blood flow to ocular tissues. Bioflavonoids help prevent ischemia, a condition where reduced blood supply can lead to ocular issues.
Thanks to their antioxidant properties, bioflavonoids protect the eye tissue from oxidative stress caused by free radicals. This protection can help reduce the risk of conditions like age-related macular degeneration (AMD), cataracts, and glaucoma, which are associated with oxidative damage.
Chronic inflammation in the eyes can contribute to conditions such as dry eye syndrome and uveitis. Bioflavonoids possess anti-inflammatory qualities, which can alleviate eye irritation and reduce the risk of inflammation-related eye issues. They also protect the eyes from the harmful effects of sun damage, which can cause conditions such as photokeratitis and pterygium. Their ability to enhance capillary health and strengthen blood vessel walls is vital for preventing conditions such as retinal vein occlusion.
Bioflavonoids have the potential to alleviate the symptoms of ocular allergies and provide relief for allergic conjunctivitis. They are effective in managing diabetic retinopathy as they protect the retina against the harmful effects of high blood sugar levels. Other than that, bioflavonoids prevent cataracts and delay the progression of lens opacity.
As a defense against harmful stimuli, the immune system initiates inflammation. However, chronic inflammation can lead to various health issues, such as rheumatoid arthritis, cardiovascular diseases, atherosclerosis, and even some eye disorders. Bioflavonoids are known for their ability to modulate inflammatory responses in several ways:
- They inhibit the activity of certain enzymes, such as cyclooxygenase (COX) and lipoxygenase (LOX), which are involved in the production of pro-inflammatory substances – prostaglandins and leukotrienes.
- Bioflavonoids act as antioxidants, mitigating oxidative stress. Inflammation and oxidative stress are closely connected. Inflammation can produce free radicals, which, in excess, damage cells and tissues. Bioflavonoids counteract this oxidative damage, reducing the overall inflammatory response.
- These compounds modulate the activity of inflammatory signaling pathways, such as nuclear factor kappa B (NF-κB). Under normal physiological conditions, NF-κB is kept in check, but when it becomes overactive, it can lead to excessive inflammation.
Bioflavonoids are abundant in a wide variety of foods. Including bioflavonoid-rich foods in your diet can provide you with numerous health benefits. A balanced and diverse diet is always considered the best way to get all the benefits of bioflavonoids (as well as other nutrients) for optimal well-being. According to the type of bioflavonoid, excellent sources include:
- Red onions
- Citrus fruits (lemons, oranges)
- Berries (strawberries, blueberries)
- Green leafy vegetables (spinach, kale)
- Red grapes
- Green tea
- Chamomile tea
- Black and green tea
- Green peppers
- Olive oil
- Cocoa and dark chocolate
- Green tea
- Red grapes
There is a wide range of bioflavonoid supplements. Each of them has specific uses and health benefits. The most commonly used are supplements with quercetin, rutin, and catechin.
Quercetin bioflavonoids are widely used to support the immune system and reduce allergy symptoms. This bioflavonoid alleviates symptoms associated with conditions like hay fever and supports cardiovascular health.
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Rutin supplements are known for their potential to strengthen blood vessels and reduce the risk of conditions like varicose veins and hemorrhoids. Common side effects are generally mild and include digestive issues.
Catechin supplements are often associated with green tea extract and are taken for their antioxidant properties. They are used to support heart health and weight control. Catechin supplements are generally well-tolerated.
Apigenin supplements are taken for their anti-anxiety and anti-inflammatory effects. Research has shown that apigenin has numerous health benefits. It reduces anxiety symptoms and promotes relaxation. Side effects are rare but may include allergic reactions in some cases.
Fisetin supplements are gaining attention for their anti-aging and cognitive health benefits. Fisetin is considered a senotherapeutic compound as it helps remove senescent cells from the body.
Flavanol supplements, derived from cocoa, contain antioxidants that may benefit heart health and cognitive function. Consumed in moderation, they generally have few side effects.
It’s important to note that the efficacy and safety of bioflavonoid supplements may vary, and their use should be discussed with a physician, especially if you have underlying health conditions or are taking medications. Always follow recommended dosages to minimize the risk of side effects.
Closing Remarks on Bioflavonoids
Despite their exceptional properties, bioflavonoids still fall under the domain of alternative medicine. In order to confirm their health benefits, additional clinical studies are required. In the meantime, we can get bioflavonoids from natural sources or choose bioflavonoid supplements, although the latter carries potential risks.
Frequently Asked Questions
Is vitamin C a bioflavonoid?
Vitamin C is a water-soluble vitamin and a powerful antioxidant that participates in various physiological processes. It is essential for collagen synthesis, wound healing, and immune function. Vitamin C is not a bioflavonoid, although it is often associated with bioflavonoids due to their complementary roles in the body. Bioflavonoids are a class of plant compounds that are found in the same foods as vitamin C, such as citrus fruits, berries, and leafy green vegetables. These compounds have antioxidant properties and improve the effects of vitamin C.
What are the symptoms of bioflavonoids deficiency?
Bioflavonoids are not considered essential nutrients, and their deficiency is relatively rare. However, when a deficiency occurs, it may manifest with various symptoms, including: increased capillary fragility, venous disorders, excessive swelling, nasal and gum bleeding, and increased allergic reactions. It’s important to note that bioflavonoid deficiencies are not common, and these symptoms may also be associated with other health disorders. If you suspect a bioflavonoid deficiency, consult your physician for proper evaluation and guidance.
What is the best source of bioflavonoids?
Bioflavonoids are found in numerous fruits, vegetables, herbs, and spices. Some of the most potent sources of bioflavonoids include:
- Citrus fruits: Orange, lemon, grapefruit, and lime are rich in bioflavonoids such as hesperidin and quercetin
- Berries: Berries like strawberries, blueberries, and blackberries contain anthocyanins and quercetin.
- Apples: A great source of quercetin and other bioflavonoids.
- Onions: Onions, especially red onions, are high in quercetin.
- Leafy greens: Kale, spinach, and broccoli contain bioflavonoids like kaempferol.
- Tea: Green tea and black tea contain catechins.
- Legumes: Foods like soybeans and lentils contain various bioflavonoids.
- Herbs and spices: Certain herbs and spices, such as parsley, oregano, and thyme, are rich in apigenin and luteolin.
- Buckwheat: A good source of rutin.