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What Are Flavonoid Glycosides?

By Hollie Thomas
Updated Mar 03, 2024
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Flavonoid glycosides are a group of chemical compounds made primarily of bound sugars; they occur in small amounts in most fruits and vegetables, and can play an important role in human health. They are known antioxidants, for instance, which means that they can help reduce the incidence of harmful free radicals in the body, and they may also have the ability to improve capillary strength and naturally lower blood pressure. Many researchers also think that they can help improve overall immune function, which means that people who consume them regularly may stay healthier and be more resistant to illness and disease. As a group, these sorts of glycosides are very large, and there are more than 4,000 that have been identified. Eating fresh fruits and vegetables is the best way for most people to incorporate them into their diets, though in many cases they’re also synthesized in labs and added to pharmaceuticals designed to treat specific conditions.

Glycoside Basics

A glycoside is basically a molecule that includes a carbohydrate bound to some other compound with what’s known as a glycosidic bond. The specific composition of the bond can vary depending on the elements being joined, but they are always covalent and usually involve oxygen. In a specifically flavonoid glycoside, the bond joins a sugar structure to a specific type of plant molecule made predominantly of carbon that is known scientifically as a flavonoid. Flavonoids have a number of important roles in and of themselves, but when they’re paired with a sugar they are often easier to absorb, at least by humans, and tend to have a broader array of benefits.

Primary Sources

A variety of different foods contain these compounds. Fruits, vegetables, seeds, legumes and soy products are some of the biggest suppliers. Within these categories, onions, apples, green tea, and red wine are some of the richest sources. In most cases even the most nutrient-packed foods only provide small amounts of glycosides, though dose size isn’t usually as important as presence at all. Most people stand to benefit something even from very small quantities, and consuming excessive amounts hasn’t usually been linked to any added value.

Antioxidant Properties

Although many types of flavonoid glycosides have been identified, few have been studied in any depth. The flavonoids that have been researched in detail include rutin, hesperatin, anthocyanaosides, and genistein. Each of these has been found have specific benefits for human health.

One of the most important attributes of these molecules is their antioxidant properties. Antioxidants are known to stabilize unstable molecules known as free radicals that float through the body and can potentially damage genetic materials and cells. This, in turn, can improve immune function and can make people stronger at fighting disease and infection.

Blood Pressure and Capillary Benefits

Capillary fragility, or the weakening of delicate blood vessels, is common in the elderly or those who suffer from a vitamin C deficiency. Regular consumption of the glycoside rutin is believed to strengthen weakened blood vessels and may also reduce the risk of heart disease. Hemorrhoids are also often treated with rutin.

Hesparitin is found in citrus fruits and is also a known antioxidant. Studies have indicated that it can reduce blood pressure and lower cholesterol. In addition, hesparitin has anti-inflammatory effects and, as such, is thought to reduce pain in the joints and muscles, particularly among those who suffer from arthritic conditions.

Other General Health Attributes

Genistein is found in soy, and this particular flavonoid glycoside is believed to delay the growth of certain cancerous cells. Studies have suggested that genistein may inhibit the growth of cells associated with breast, colon, cervix, brain, and prostate cancers. Studies using rodents have also indicated that genistein may be effective in treating some types of leukemia.

Anthrocyanosides are found in bilberries and known to have several positive health implications. These glycosides are believed to help maintain healthy skin, teeth, eyes, and hair. In addition, they are thought to improve cardiovascular health and may help to protect against conditions such as diabetes.

Risks and Precautions

These compounds are naturally-occurring, but this doesn’t mean that they’re safe for everyone; neither does it mean that they are more effective than other pharmaceutical treatments. Most health professionals recommend incorporating a range of fresh fruits and vegetables into the daily diet as a means of preventative health, but it can be dangerous to rely on molecular structures of plants to actually cure or treat diseases that are progressing in the body. Anyone thinking of adding these elements to a regimen for treating anything specific is usually wise to talk the plan over with a physician or other health care provider first in order to better understand all the risks and the scope of the potential benefits.

The Health Board is dedicated to providing accurate and trustworthy information. We carefully select reputable sources and employ a rigorous fact-checking process to maintain the highest standards. To learn more about our commitment to accuracy, read our editorial process.

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