Wednesday, June 6, 2018
Wisdom Wednesday: Plant Pigments May Preserve Lung Function into Old Age
New research finds that flavonoids – which are natural chemical compounds found in plants, such as fruits and vegetables – can help to slow the decline in lung function that tends to occur with age.
As the plants’ pigments, flavonoids are responsible for the vibrant colors of fruits and vegetables. They also attract pollinating insets and regulate cell growth. Research has suggested that dietary flavonoids may hold a lot of benefits for human health.
In vivo and in vitro studies have exposed flavonoids’ range of anti-inflammatory and antidiabetic properties, as well as their anticancer and neuroprotective benefits. New research adds to this list, suggesting that a certain type of flavonoid called “anthocyanins” can help to maintain healthy lung function well into old age.
The research was led by Vanessa Garcia-Larsen, Ph.D., who is an assistant professor in the Human Nutrition Division of the Department of International Health at the Johns Hopkins Bloomberg School of Public Health in Baltimore, MD. The findings were presented at the American Thoracic Society International Conference, held in San Diego, CA.
For this study, the researchers looked at data available from 463 adults from Norway and England – aged 44, on average – who took part in a spirometry test at the beginning of the study and at different follow-up times.
Spirometry is a pulmonary lung function test that measures the airflow and the volume of air that a person can exhale on command.
Additionally, the study participants had filled in a dietary questionnaire, so the researchers were able to divide the participants into quartiles, or fourths, based on their dietary intake of anthocyanins.
The research revealed that the highest quartile of anthocyanin consumers, when compared with the lowest, had a much slower rate of decline in all three aspects of lung function measured by the spirometry.
Additionally, the researchers looked at the benefits of anthocyanin consumption among those who smoked but had quit, as well as those who had never smoked. They found that flavonoids did not benefit smokers.
They conclude, “Dietary intake of sources of anthocyanins is associated with significantly slower decline in lung function in the general population, specifically in never – and ex-smokers but not among smokers.”
In the human eye, flavonoids have a protective value from the ultraviolet rays of the sun based on their pigment. Fruits and vegetables that are yellow, red and orange all help prevent cataract formation.
Anthocyanins, also known as bioflavonoids are abundant in blueberries, red and black grapes, cranberries, raspberries, blackberries, red cabbage, red onions and eggplant.
I use grape seed extract as a supplemental source of anthocyanins. As they are water soluble, I typically start with 1 mg per pound of body weight for a week, then reduce to 100 mg per day. Anthocyanins will strengthen the blood vessel walls, so I use them for capillary fragility, varicose veins and even the treatment of phlebitis. DVTs (deep vein thrombosis) will often resolve with the use of grape seed extract in as little as 24 hours.
I suspect that it is the vascular support the anthocyanins provide that accounts for the slower decline in lung function as we age.
The Bottom Line:
May sure you eat a variety of colors in your fruits and vegetables daily. The more color in the salad the more varied the nutrient value, especially the micro-nutrients like anthocyanins.
May 23, 2018 National Institutes of Health
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