JAM IT UP! (remember 40 kg worth of the RIGHT combination of fruits or vegetables per jar)
Flavonoids are gaining international attention for their diverse array of powerful health benefits. In the old days they were mostly thought of as antioxidants. In the new era involving epigenetics and gene expression they are potent regulators of health, reducing the risk for age-associated disease and extending lifespan.
Three new human studies evaluating dietary intake patterns of various types of flavonoids showed that higher intake of flavonoids was associated with better health and a longer life.
The first study followed 2915 members of the Framingham Offspring cohort who were free of type 2 diabetes at the start of the study for an average for 12 years. These individuals were over 50 and most were overweight. Those with the highest intake of one type of flavonoid (flavonol) were 26 percent less likely to develop type 2 diabetes, indicating that flavonoids could help reduce the slide from inefficient metabolism into type 2 diabetes.
A second study evaluated the existing scientific literature on flavonoid intake and the risk for cardiovascular disease. The results showed that six different types of flavonoids were all associated with a risk reduction for cardiovascular disease – the higher the intake the better the protection. Risk reduction ranged from 10 – 13 percent, depending on the type of flavonoid. The researchers concluded that intake of these flavonoids “significantly decrease the risk of cardiovascular disease.”
A third study looked at all-cause mortality over a 12-year period in a group of 807 men and women aged 65 and older from the Chianti region of Tuscany, Italy. The researchers evaluated dietary intake and urinary excretion of total polyphenols. Flavonoids are the main dietary polyphenol. By measuring urinary excretion the researchers were able to gauge true intake, which is sometimes too generalized on food frequency questionnaires. Those with the highest levels of urinary polyphenols had a 30 percent mortality risk reduction.
These three recent studies lend a type of scientific credibility to the value of increased flavonoid intake. Over the past few decades other general studies have come to similar conclusions. Furthermore, there are now thousands of studies (cell, animal, and human) with specific flavonoids which help to document their mechanisms of action that contribute to these health benefits.
From a practical point of view a consumer needs to understand how they can get these nutrients from their diet and what dietary supplements may be of help. Part of the issue is that terms like polyphenol and flavonoid are often used interchangeably, making it a bit confusing for the typical lay person to understand which nutrients may be most relevant to them.
To help sort this out I will give a basic overview of the topic of polyphenols and flavonoids I will explain the main types of flavonoids and what they do. And I will offer some common sense suggestions as to how you can incorporate this knowledge into your personal health plan.
Remember, if a drug had produced the results cited in the above three studies it would be worth hundreds of billions of dollars for Big Pharma – the next great “blockbuster” to be pushed down the throats of the baby boomer generation. As always, any Big Pharma drug touting preventive health benefits has many unhealthy side effects, either hidden or downplayed by those pushing the drugs. Mother Nature does not have such a secret agenda – only benefits for you.
Polyphenols and Flavonoids
Flavonoids are the dominant factor that gives fruits their color. In comparison, carotenes give vegetables their color – although smaller amounts of flavonoids are present along with carotenes in many vegetables. There are thousands of types of flavonoids in nature, which scientists break down into general groups. Different flavonoid structures have different functions in your body, which is why a wide variety of flavonoid intake is good for you.
All flavonoids are polyphenols as they contain the common phenol compound as part of their structure. Polyphenols represent a broader group of nutrients, broken down into categories such as phenolic acids, stilbenes, tannins, diferuloylmethanes and flavonoids. Of these various groups, flavonoids are the most abundant type of polyphenol in nature.
The popular nutrient resveratrol is a polyphenol of the stilbene type, and is not a flavonoid. It is found in small amounts in red grapes, which are primarily flavonoids. Blueberries are another fruit high in flavonoids, as well as containing small amounts of another stilbene called pterostilbene. Stilbenes are also being studied for potent metabolic, disease prevention, and anti-aging benefits.
Curcumin is a polyphenol of the diferuloylmethane type, and is not a flavonoid. Thus we see that there is a broad array of health benefits from polyphenols in general, although the focus of this article will be on flavonoids in particular.
Polyphenols and flavonoids have antioxidant capabilities, contributing to your overall antioxidant health reserves. However, the potency of these compounds is poorly understood if you only look at them as antioxidants, as their primary health benefits are in how they help regulate your genes to do the right thing.
This is one reason Big Pharma drugs are an utter failure for preventive health. Modern science is trying to develop gene-regulating drugs, as opposed to their current versions of toxic sledgehammers for which they have no risk profile whatsoever for any aging population taking multiple medications. Unfortunately, we are in the Stone Age when it comes to regulating genes with drugs, as genes turn on and off under a variety of different circumstances. The very same genes signals that are involved with disease processes are involved with health. Drugs have no way to tell the difference and do not know what they are actually doing in human metabolism. A reliance on Western medicine drugs to sustain health as one ages is one of the greatest con jobs in human history.
Nutrition is an entirely different story. Humans have been consuming flavonoids throughout evolution and have learned to use them to regulate the expression of genes that determine health. The human body genome acting in tandem with flavonoid intake produces stunning health benefits. Depending on the health context of gene signaling within cells, flavonoids can rejuvenate stressed-out cells, promote the general well being of any cell, or act to help kill cancer cells. Oftentimes it is changing the regulation of the same gene signal in different ways – but invariably in ways that are good for health. Your body knows how to use flavonoids in many different ways depending on the health context of the cell itself. From Big Pharma’s perspective, such intelligent function is pure magic and something they will spend the next 200 years dreaming about.
Flavonoids have diverse functions within plants. They are part of the defense system against invasive infection, which means they are immune supportive to humans. They help regulate cell functions within plants, and do the same for humans. They are synthesized in higher amounts by plants when plants come under stress. They are needed by humans in higher amounts when we are under stress, helping us to tolerate higher levels of stress without wear and tear that accelerates aging and disease risk.
It is quite fascinating how Mother Nature packages up nutrition for humans. Fruits, which are higher in sugar, are packaged up with flavonoids that help your body metabolize the sugar you are consuming. This is the general reason why they help reduce the risk for type 2 diabetes. And it helps explain why it is so damaging to consume large amounts of sugar without concurrent flavonoids, as is common in our society with its epidemic of obesity and type 2 diabetes.
As these flavonoids travel around your blood they interact with factors in your blood and the structure of your arteries and blood vessels. They have antioxidant, anti-inflammatory, anti-stress, and tissue rejuvenating properties. We now know that in addition to these general mechanisms, they are operating at the gene level to help bolster these direct health benefits to your circulatory system. Once again, it is little wonder that flavonoids are able to show a risk reduction for cardiovascular disease.
Their general net function is anti-stress and anti-wear and tear, helping to preserve the structure of the proteins of genes so that they can function in a healthy way. This reduces the number of damaged and misfolded proteins, which eventually become noticeable in the plaque-tangles of cognitive decline and cardiovascular disease. Their ability to preserve structural components down to the gene level is a main reason for their anti-aging benefit which provided the reduced risk for all-cause morality.
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