Review of the biology of Quercetin and related bioflavonoids.


Formica JV, Regelson W.




Food Chem Toxicol


The French paradox is a dietary anomaly which has focused attention on the Mediterranean diet. Epidemiological studies revealed that this diet, replete in flavonoid-rich foods (Allium and Brassica vegetables, and red wine), correlated with the increased longevity and decreased incidence of cardiovascular disease seen in these populations. The most frequently studied flavonoid, quercetin, has been shown to have biological properties consistent with its sparing effect on the cardiovascular system. Quercetin and other flavonoids have been shown to modify eicosanoid biosynthesis (antiprostanoid and anti-inflammatory responses), protect low-density lipoprotein from oxidation (prevent atherosclerotic plaque formation), prevent platelet aggregation (antithrombic effects), and promote relaxation of cardiovascular smooth muscle (antihypertensive, antiarrhythmic effects). In addition, flavonoids have been shown to have antiviral and carcinostatic properties. However, flavonoids are poorly absorbed from the gut and are subject to degradation by intestinal micro-organisms. The amount of quercetin that remains biologically available may not be of sufficient concentration, theoretically, to explain the beneficial effects seen with the Mediterranean diet. The role of flavonoids may transcend their presence in food. The activity of flavonoids as inhibitors of reverse transcriptase suggests a place for these compounds in the control of retrovirus infections, such as acquired immunodeficiency syndrome (AIDS). In addition to specific effects, the broad-modulating effects of flavonoids as antioxidants, inhibitors of ubiquitous enzymes (ornithine carboxylase, protein kinase, calmodulin), and promoters of vasodilatation and platelet disaggregation can serve as starting material for drug development programmes.