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They include other bioactive chemicals such as polyphenols and isoflavones, and are mainly known for their antioxidant activity, enhancement of immunity, reduction of inflammation, protection of the heart and prevention of various cancers.
Flavonoids belong to the group of polyphenol compounds derived from plant compounds. Flavonoids have been categorized into isoflavonoids (isoflavones) and neoflavonoids. The group includes other bioactive chemicals such as polyphenols and isoflavones, and are mainly known for their antioxidant activity. They have also been known to have many other beneficial effects including the enhancement of immunity, reduction of inflammation, protection of the heart and prevention of various cancers.

Effects on Macrophages

Flavonoids derived from plant products have been noted to stabilize the effects of the immune system. Several autoimmune diseases (wherein the immune system begins destroying healthy cells) are related to an abnormal increase in the function of the immune cells. Numerous studies have reported the benefits of flavonoids in the regulation of the immune system. These studies have reported that, administration of flavonoids decreases the over-expression of macrophages while maintaining their function. Also, it helps in the regulation of the chemicals being released by the immune cells that results in accumulation of immune cells at a particular location. This regulatory activity of the flavonoids was more pronounced on the macrophages being produced in the bone marrow. Thereby, decrease in the abnormal expression while preserving the function of the immune cells can help in the prevention of autoimmune disorders.

Similar results were published based on a study conducted on cocoa consumption. It was noted that cocoa contained several flavonoids that helped in the stabilization of the immune cells and, controlled the release of chemicals from macrophages and other leucocytes that initiated inflammatory reactions.

Polyphenols Enhance Humoral and Cell Mediated Immunity

The immunity in our body has been categorized as humoral and cell mediated immunities. Humoral immunity refers to the immunity carried out by the B-lymphocytes while, cell mediated refers to the immunity by the T-lymphocytes. Humoral immunity is the first line of defense in our body while, the cell mediated immunity is activated if the B-lymphocytes are unable to control an infection. Polyphenols present in green tea have been noted to enhance both these types of immunity with regular consumption.Along with its antioxidant effects the polyphenols also have a role in the repair of DNA and, stimulation of T cells and other immune cells. These effects of polyphenols protect healthy cells and prevent the progression of cancer.

Administration of flavonoid supplements may therefore have a beneficial effect in the prevention of infectious disorders, autoimmune disorders and also cancers. Further studies are required for determining the safety and efficacy of long term administration of phytonutrients.

  • 1. Flavonoids (isoflavonoids and neoflavonoids). IUPAC Compendium of Chemical Terminology. Available from: www.iupac.org/goldbook/F02424.pdf
  • 2. de Medina FS, Zarzuelo A. Polyphenols and immunity. Proceedings of the Nutrition Society. 2008, 67 (OCE):E1. doi:10.1017/S0029665108006101
  • 3. Comalada M, Ballester I, Bailon E, Sierra S, Xaus J, Galvez J, de Medina FS, Zarzuelo A. Inhibition of pro-inflammatory markers in primary bone marrow-derived mouse macrophages by naturally occurring flavonoids: analysis of the structure-activity relationship. Biochem Pharmacol. 2006, 72: 1010–1021
  • 4. Ramiro-Puig E, Castell M. Cocoa: antioxidant and immunomodulator. Br J Nutr. 2009 Apr,101(7):931-40. Epub 2009 Jan 6
  • 5. Butt MS, Sultan MT. Green tea: nature's defense against malignancies. Crit Rev Food Sci Nutr. 2009 May, 49(5):463-73
  • Photo courtesy of John Pozadzides on Flickr: www.flickr.com/photos/john-pozadzides/4985206425/

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