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Vitamin P: The wonderful bioflavonoids.

Byline: Mariam A. Alireza

The recent "magic" word in vitamins and health is bioflavonoids. When we do not know enough about their benefits, importance, and functions in the body, we tend to overlook them; so we miss out on their good effects. On one hand, we are fortunate that they are readily available in bright-colored fruits and vegetables. On the other hand, the widespread of prepared, processed, and fast foods, has caused us to intentionally or unintentionally omit these antioxidants and their live-nutrients from our daily diet. Today, we shall dig into the secrets of bioflavonoids.

When 1937 Nobel Prize winner, Dr. Albert Szent-Gyorgyi, discovered ascorbic acid, vitamin C, he came across other related nutrients, which are flavonoids. These are flavones and flavonols, which come from plant pigments. He coined them vitamin P. Years later, biochemist B.L. Oser named them bioflavonoids for their biological activity. American scientists continue to call them bioflavonoids, while, in Europe, they still retain their original name of vitamin P.

There are two categories of bioflavonoids: Hydroxy and methoxy groups. The most prevalent ones in plants are hydroxylated ones like quercetin, myricetin, and kaempferol, which protect against cataract development (blindness) as well as maintain health and food freshness through their antibacterial properties.

Methoxylated bioflavonoids such as hesperidin and eriocitrin are components found in citrus fruits' inner peel extract. The advantage of citrus flavonoids is in their higher bioavailability in the body than the hydroxy group's. Hence, half the dose of the methoxy group gives the same protection of a full dose of its counterpart. In spite of the antibacterial effects of quercetin in herbs (tea, elderflowers, spices), nobiletin in the white lining of citrus peels (lemon, orange) is twice as potent against bacterial infections. Though a little more costly, citrus bioflavonoids offer more effectiveness through their powerful concentration of antioxidants. When buying vitamin C with bioflavonoids, make sure it contains the citrus kind. Now, let us see how bioflavonoids work to protect our health.

Vitamin P plays an important role in counteracting cholesterol buildup by preventing the oxidation of fat particles, thus lowering risk of plaque and heart disease. Bioflavonoids reduce blood clotting and platelet aggregation and bolster blood vessel walls, decreasing heart attack, stroke, and mortality rate. Apples, onions, and tea also contain beneficial bioflavonoids to maintain cardiovascular health.

Bioflavonoids prevent cataracts by deactivating the enzyme that provokes their formation in the eyes of diabetics and those having metabolic diseases.

Vitamin C complex (C and P) helps cope with daily pressures, which make stress hormones flood the body and disrupt the brain's neurotransmitters and hormonal system.

Bioflavonoids strengthens blood vessels and capillary walls to prevent bleeding, easy bruising, nose, gum, and hemorrhoid bleeding, varicose veins, heavy menstruation, and repeated miscarriages.

Thousands of bioflavonoids exist in plant pigments, but not all of them are of much use to the human body. The deeper the vegetable and fruit colors are; the higher the bioflavonoid content is. These pigments range from dark green, bright yellow and orange to vivid red and intense purple. Below, I have chosen some important bioflavonoids, explained their benefits, and indicated the plants that offer them.

Apigenin suppresses cell mutation and repairs cell DNA, preventing cancer. It is found in apples, chamomile, milk thistle, onions, oregano, rosemary, and passion flower.

Betanin, in red beets, purple eggplants, dark pimentos, and red and purple grapes, gives the same apigenin benefits.

Biochanin A slows cholesterol uptake in the intestines and speeds its elimination. It is available in alfalfa, chickpeas, red clover, wheat grass, woodruff, and yellow sweet clover, which help decrease cholesterol levels.

Delphinidin along with vitamin E reduces or delays risk of Alzheimer's and dementia and thins blood for better circulation. Blueberries, red currants, and dark grape juice offer it.

Diosmin tones capillaries; improves circulation, and gives antibacterial and antifungal protection. It is found in lemon and bergamot oils, rosemary, and spearmint.

Ellagic acid destroys carcinogens and produces calming effects. It is available in almonds and most nuts, berries, grapes, red apple peel, purple cabbage, and eggplants.

Hesperidin's antiviral and antibacterial potency fights colds, flu, and herpes; lowers cholesterol; and fortifies blood vessel walls. Citrus fruits and hyssop offer it.

Hyperin improves mild depression and mental disorders and regenerates cells. St. Johnwart contains the phytonutrient.

Kaempferol's properties protect against bacteria (E coli, Staphylococci) and fungi. It is found in arnica, asparagus, cloves, dill, elder and passion flowers, pepper, and senna.

Lycopene, in tomatoes, dandelion flower, and sunflower, protects against prostate cancer and heart disease.

Nobiletin is a powerful anticoagulant in grapefruit, tangerine, mandarin, and bitter and sweet oranges.

Quercetin produces antihistamine, antioxidant, antibacterial, antiviral (herpes), anti-inflammatory and anticancer effects. It is obtained from cloves, apples, dill, elderflowers, fenugreek, nuts, onions, pepper, tea, and root vegetables.

Rutin strengthens vascular walls and calms the heart, nerves and brain. It is available in buckwheat, chamomile, elder and passion flowers, fennel, hops, eucalyptus, lemon, citrus fruits, onions, hawthorn, and tea.

Secoisolariciresinol diglycoside is a lignan in flaxseeds and their oils. This bioflavonoid offers antitumor properties that suppress estrogen and tumor producing enzymes.

Now that you have come to know some of the many bioflavonoids and some of their powerful healing properties against bacteria, viruses, fungi, allergens, mutigens, carcinogens, tumors, and inflammation, I am confident you will add bioflavonoid-rich foods to your diet to prevent disease and maintain health and wellness in a cost effective way.

- References: Dr. Heinerman's Encyclopaedia of "Nature's Vitamins and Minerals".

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Publication:Arab News (Jeddah, Saudi Arabia)
Date:Apr 25, 2009
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