Bioflavonoids (Vitamin P)
Bioflavonoids are not actually vitamins, although they are sometimes referred to as vitamin P. Bioflavonoids are the water-soluble companions of ascorbic acid, usually found in the same foods. Vitamin P includes a number of components that work together—citrin, hesperidin, rutin, flavones, flavonals, and catechin and quercetin, which will also be discussed in Chapter 7, Accessory Nutrients. Their association with vitamin C is the reason that natural forms of vitamin C are more effective than are synthetic ascorbic acids without the bioflavonoids in the equivalent amounts.
Bioflavonoids are a class of water-soluble plant pigments. While they are not considered essential, they do support health as anti-inflammatory, antihistaminic, and anti-viral agents. They block the “sorbitol pathway” that is linked to many symptoms of diabetes. Bioflavonoids also protect blood vessels and reduce platelet aggregation (acting as natural blood thinners). As antioxidants, some bioflavonoids, such as quercetin, protect LDL-cholesterol from oxidative damage. Others, such as the anthocyanidins from bilberry, may help protect the lens of the eye from cataracts. Preliminary evidence suggests that some bioflavonoids, such as naringenin, may have anticancer activity.
The main source of bioflavonoids is the citrus fruits—lemons, grapefruits, oranges, and, to a lesser extent, limes. Rose hips, apricots, cherries, grapes, black currants, plums, blackberries, and papayas are other fruit sources of vitamin P. Green pepper, broccoli, and tomatoes are some good vegetable sources of bioflavonoids. The buckwheat plant, leaf and grain, is a particularly good source of bioflavonoids, especially the rutin component.
The bioflavonoids are helpful in the absorption of vitamin C and protect the multifunctional vitamin C molecule from oxidation, thereby improving and prolonging its functioning. Therefore, the bioflavonoids are indirectly, and possibly directly, involved in maintaining the health of the collagen that holds the cells together by forming the basement membranes of cells, tissues, and cartilage. The main known function of the bioflavonoids is to increase the strength of the capillaries and to regulate their permeability. The capillaries link the arteries to the veins. They deliver oxygen and nutrients to the organs, tissues, and cells and then pick up carbon dioxide and waste and carry them through the veins and back to the heart. By its support of the capillaries, vitamin P helps to prevent hemorrhage and rupture of these tiny vessels, which could lead to easy bruising. Also, capillary strength may help protect us from infection, particularly viral problems. Bioflavonoids also can reduce the amount of histamine released from cells; quercetin is definitely strong in this function.
Bioflavonoids are essential for the absorption and utilization of vitamin C. The bioavailability of vitamin C is enhanced when adequate bioflavonoids are present, and in turn, the bioavailability of bioflavonoids are enhanced when adequate vitamin C is present. They assist vitamin C in keeping collagen, the "intercellular cement" in a healthy condition. As a potent antioxidant, bioflavonoids keep vitamin C and adrenalin from being oxidized by copper-containing enzymes. They reduce the risk of heart disease by their ability to lower cholesterol and triglycerides. They improve capillary permeability and reduce red blood cell aggregation. They have anti-allergy and anti-inflammatory activity and reduce swelling and body fluid concentration at sites of inflammation, and they dilate small arteries, improving circulation. They stimulate bile production, influence endocrine glands, and have anti-parasitic and anti-bacterial properties. Bioflavonoids reduce platelet adhesiveness and reduce the incidence of heart disease and stroke.
Bioflavonoids are also referred to as vitamin P, a name that nutrition scientists object to because it has not been proved that they are essential to human nutrition and health. Many researchers are studying bioflavonoids and many reports have been given about their possible functions. Some researchers believe that bioflavonoids help maintain capillaries. Capillaries are microscopic blood vessels that allow the oxygen, hormones, nutrients, and antibodies to pass from the bodys bloodstream to individual cells. If a capillarys walls are too fragile they will allow blood to drain out of the vessels and into the cells. The result of this is easy bruising, brain and retinal hemorrhages, bleeding gums and other abnormalities.
Bioflavonoids also in recent studies have been shown to help the blood clot, this alone can be helpful in treating phlebitis and other clotting disorders. Many bioflavonoids prevent the cellular damage caused by free radicals; these are unstable molecules that are formed when the body burns oxygen. Some bioflavonoids are used as food preservatives to prevent fats from oxidation. Some reports show bioflavonoids are useful in enhancing the antioxidant action of certain nutrients.
The main use of the bioflavonoids is to provide synergy in the utilization of vitamin C; therefore they contribute to many vitamin C applications—for example, the treatment of colds and flus. Bioflavonoids themselves are often supplemented for problems where improved capillary strength is needed, such as bleeding gums, easy bruising, and duodenal bleeding ulcers, which may be worsened by weak capillaries. The rutin component is particularly good for decreasing bleeding from weak blood vessels. In hemorrhoids, varicose veins, spontaneous abortions, excess menstrual bleeding (menorrhagia), postpartum hemorrhage, nosebleeds, the bleeding problems of diabetes, and generally during pregnancy, the bioflavonoids may be helpful in maintaining capillary health and reducing bleeding concerns. For women who have repeated spontaneous abortions or premature labor, supplementing citrus bioflavonoids—for example, 200 mg. three times daily—may be helpful in remedying these problems. Vitamin P has been used also in asthma, allergies, bursitis and arthritis, and eye problems secondary to diabetes and as protection from the harmful effects of radiation.