Flavonoids & Living Longer, “Body Armor” Against Aging & Disease:
So Fall is now upon us and the assault of Pumpkin-Spice everything is here.
But Fall is also prime-time for Apple season!
And that is a reminder of two good things. Eating Seasonally and Hidden Benefits.
Most people don’t think too much in-terms of what good a certain food could do them,
And that would be a big mistake according to a new study by ECU researchers who’ve found that foods with properties similar to apples may have some surprising hidden benefits…
Ancient Man Was Right. Food Really Is Medicine:
So modern man would have you believe that all you have to do is pop a pill and everything’s fixed.
But recent work has shown that not only do some vitamins have toxic effects in pill form,
Because they’re buffered, slow-release, near-impossible to overdose on, and in a form that we evolved alongside.
And so The Short Answer for the current work is that foods like Apples, and drinks like Tea are associated with longer-lifespan because of specific nutrients they have in-quantity.
Read on to find out the details…
Forget The Supplements, Keep Looking For SuperFoods:
So not only have we learned that you might not be able to supplement your way out of a bad diet,
But that some pills like Vitamin E can be correlated with an increased risk of disease.
So food-based vitamins are looking pretty good!
And every once in awhile, the idea of a SuperFood covertly circulates back and reminds us that you might get some real benefit,
Besides just the calories.
And in this case, it’s looking like Apples share some super qualities with other foods because of interesting compounds they have,
That are called Flavonoids.
So What The Hell Is A Flavonoid?:
Flavonoids are plant-chemicals that usually function with respect to color, UV filtration, growing-cycles, chemical-messaging and a few other things.
In lab experiments, they are associated with properties like:
And a few others, but you can see the general trend is something along the lines of protection,
Which is part of what they do for the plants, too.
So What Did The Study Find Out About These Food-Chemicals?:
So by looking at data from Danish studies for more than 20 years and 53,000+ subjects,
Nicola Bondonno’s team found that there was a reduced rate of mortality in those people who ate flavonoid-rich foods.
This is particularly-important, because the reductions were for 2 of the most serious diseases that affect people.
Stranger-still, these effects were seen in people who were at-risk for disease because of smoking and excessive-drinking habits.
So, it’s pretty-impressive that they actually helped people live longer when they had a much greater risk for health problems than the average person.
And the Magic Number?
Study subject who ate about 500mg of flavonoids a day had the lowest risk for the diseases studied.
Note, this is about 2.5x the normal US daily intake for adults,
So you would have to do a little work to get that amount.
So What Foods Can I Eat That Have These Magic Chemicals?:
A few of the fruit & veg items highest in these chemicals are:
1) Blueberries (high score: 1.63mg/g of Anthocyanidins)
2) Cranberries (high score: .92mg/g of Anthocyanidins)
3) Cherries (high score: .8mg/g of Anthocyanidins)
4) Red Cabbage (high score: .73mg/g of Anthocyanidins)
5) Black Tea (high score: 1.15mg/g of Flavan-3ol)
6) Oranges (high score: .43mg/g of Flavanone)
7) Onions (high score: .27mg/g of Flavanol)
8) Apples (high score: .081mg/g of Flavan-3ol)
9) Citrus (high score, lemons: .50mg/g of Flavanone)
10) Red Wine (high score: 4.15mg/g of Catechins)
11) Cocoa/71%+Dark-Chocolate (high score: 18.2mg/g of Catechins)
12) Peanut skins
13) Parsley (high score: .081mg/g of Flavan-3ol)
So for Example: if you had 1 8 oz. cup of Black Tea, 1/2 cup of Blueberries, and 1 medium 7oz. Apple, you would be on your way to getting the same amount that the healthy Danes in the study had.
But be careful to spread your risk!
There are 5 different categories with at-least 26 sub-types of Flavonoids, and those aren’t the only healthy food-chemicals.
So just like any good nutritionist would tell you, you should probably consider getting a Variety of different fruits & veg, so that you cover your bases.
Ex: Blueberries, Onions, Apples, Citrus, Peppers, and Black Tea all have high-concentrations of completely-different types.
So How Do Flavonoids Work To Make You Live Longer?:
Flavonoids as a category contains 4,000+ different compounds among the 26 or so subtypes.
And most of them function like anti-oxidants, containing or neutralizing toxic biochemicals,
That are usually the result of bad diet, bad environmental influences, heavy stress, or even sickness and disease.
The ones in Red Wine also improve circulation, and can protect your brain.
Others work like anti-inflammatories.
So they can do all kinds of different magic than just neutralizing the excess copper in the water or iron from that steak,
The way a handful of mixed-nuts will do through the 8 different types of Vitamin E.
Their function either directly, or what the GI-tract metabolizes them into, may have similar-effects to the ones they have for the plants in nature,
To protect them from outside-attackers and oxidative-stress of all types.
So in one way if you get these foods, it’s a strange plant-human cooperation to achieve roughly the same goal of living longer!
What Other Protections Could They Offer?:
The most common list of potential benefits besides the 2 in the ECU study are:
1) Improvement in Circulation
2) Reduction in Damage From Stress
3) Protection Against Neurotoxicity
4) Reduced Cardiovascular Disease & Hardening of the Arteries
5) Reduction of Depression & Anxiety
6) Lower Blood-Pressure
7) Reduction of Inflammatory Proteins Like IL1-B
8) Improvement of Gut Microbiome & Its Biochemical Output
9) Counteracts Enzymes Implicated in Alzheimer’s
10) Improved Cognitive Function in All Measures
Some Final Thoughts:
Although high flavonoid-intake seemed to protect people at risk in the Danish study,
Researchers were quick to point out that it’s not a good justification to have bad health-habits like excessive-drinking or smoking,
And that although the right fruits & veg can help a little before people clean up their act,
They can’t really “fix” too much bad behavior, so it’s probably better to get more benefits by doing other things well first.
And although we listed a few foods that are high in flavonoids to make it easier to get them in your diet,
There are many more that have smaller-but-significant amounts, especially for the quantity of each food people eat, ex: like a large 9oz apple.
These can be found right here on the USDA’s list if you’d like to try something different.
As the intro to the post might suggest, Eating Seasonally like the French is also one of the best ways to get the highest-concentration and benefit from your foods,
Especially if you can go to one of the many farmer’s markets with produce that was just harvested.
And while the list of Superfoods may be shorter than the “metabolism-boosting” merchants of Acaí would like to believe,
Anything like black tea and hopefully in-season apples or other fruit, might be a really healthy-addition to your life-extension plans based just on its flavonoid-content alone!
Photo Credits: “making applesauce”, by Nathan Hulsey
• Source: ECU
• Source Study: Nature – Flavonoid intake is associated with lower mortality in the Danish Diet Cancer and Health Cohort