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Studies force new view on biology of flavonoids

s," Frei said. "Based on laboratory tests of their ability to scavenge free radicals, it appears they have 3-5 times more antioxidant capacity than vitamins C or E. But with flavonoids in particular, what goes on in a test tube is not whats happening in the human body."

Research has now proven that flavonoids are poorly absorbed by the body, usually less than five percent, and most of what does get absorbed into the blood stream is rapidly metabolized in the intestines and liver and excreted from the body. By contrast, vitamin C is absorbed 100 percent by the body up to a certain level. And vitamin C accumulates in cells where it is 1,000 to 3,000 times more active as an antioxidant than flavonoids.

The large increase in total antioxidant capacity of blood observed after the consumption of flavonoid-rich foods is not caused by the flavonoids themselves, Frei said, but most likely is the result of increased uric acid levels.

But just because flavonoids have been found to be ineffectual as antioxidants in the human body does not mean they are without value, Frei said. They appear to strongly influence cell signaling pathways and gene expression, with relevance to both cancer and heart disease.

"We can now follow the activity of flavonoids in the body, and one thing that is clear is that the body sees them as foreign compounds and is trying to get rid of them," Frei said. "But this process of gearing up to get rid of unwanted compounds is inducing so-called Phase II enzymes that also help eliminate mutagens and carcinogens, and therefore may be of value in cancer prevention.

"Flavonoids could also induce mechanisms that help kill cancer cells and inhibit tumor invasion," Frei added.

It also appears that flavonoids increase the activation of existing nitric oxide synthase, which has the effect of keeping blood vessels healthy and relaxed, preventing inflammation, and lowering blood pressure all key
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Contact: Balz Frei
balz.frei@oregonstate.edu
541-737-5078
Oregon State University
5-Mar-2007


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