Written by: Shauna Bannan
People who add a moderate amount of flavonoids, plant compounds found in food and beverages, to their diets are less likely to suffer from serious health problems, recent studies show.
There are over 4,000 compounds classified as flavonoids, many of which can be found in a variety of fruits and vegetables, as well as tea, beer, wine, nuts, and soy. Research suggests that the naturally occurring plant compounds have a number of beneficial effects on human health, including a reduced risk of cancer, asthma, stroke, and heart disease.
A recent study conducted on nearly 100,000 older U.S. adults found that those who consumed the most amount of flavonoids were less likely to die of heart disease or stroke, compared to those who consumed the least amounts, over the next seven years. The participants were divided into groups of five – based on their flavonoid intake. One-fifth of those with the highest level of plant compounds were 18 percent less likely to die from cardiovascular trouble than the group with the lowest intake.
A study conducted at UCLA found that smokers who consumed high levels of these compounds in their diets were less likely to develop lung cancer.
“What we found was extremely interesting, that several types of flavonoids are associated with a reduced risk of lung cancer among smokers,” said Dr. Zuo-Feng Zhang, a researcher and professor of public health and epidemiology at UCLA. “The findings were especially interesting because tobacco smoking is the major risk factor for lung cancer.”
Zhang suggests that flavonoids may prevent cancer cells from blocking, in addition to blocking the formation of blood vessels that tumors develop.
The secret lies within the compound’s antioxidant activity. Like other antioxidants, flavonoids provide the body with protection against cellular damage. Due to the common high intake of fruits, vegetables, tea, and wine, these plant-based compounds may, at times, have stronger antioxidant abilities than those of vitamins C and E.
Many of these foods are consumed on a daily basis. Most vegetables, particularly those that are green and red, contain high levels of the compound. Tree fruits, spices, and beverages, including red wine and tea of all types, are also among a long list of flavonoid-rich foods.
“Even adding one serving of flavonoid-rich food a day could be beneficial,” said Marjorie L. McCullough, lead researcher of the American Cancer Society in Atlanta. “Flavonoid-rich foods are the types of foods we should be eating anyway.”