Quercetin: Purpose, Benefits, and Effects to the Body

  • Quercetin is a flavonoid–a compound found in plant-sources–that is present in various foods, and it has many purposes in your body.
  • Because it has many health properties, it will also provide your body with multiple health benefits. 
  • Foods like dates, leafy green vegetables, and fruits are high in quercetin, and you should add them to your diet. 

If you are wondering, “what is quercetin,” then you are in the right place. In this article, we will tell you all about this flavonol, including what it is and what it does for your body. You can also find out the benefits of this compound and the foods high in quercetin.

 

What is quercetin? 

Quercetin is a flavonoid that you can find in fruits and vegetables. Thanks to its unique properties, quercetin can benefit your mental and physical health. The name comes from the word quercetum, which means oak forest.

A flavonoid is a substance that acts as an antioxidant. This means it protects your body from inflammation and your cells from damage. Quercetin is one of the most important flavonoids in various plants and edible fruits and vegetables. The compound is yellow, and it is not soluble in water. Yet, it does dissolve in alcohol and fatty liquids.

 

What does quercetin do? 

Quercetin is significant for humans thanks to its antioxidant and anti-inflammatory properties.

This compound is absorbed in various organs, including the small intestine, the liver, and the kidneys. The body transforms it into metabolites that it uses for different purposes.

In the body, quercetin can stabilize cells, especially those prone to metastasis. It also reduces swelling, kills cancer cells, controls blood glucose levels, and reduces the risk for heart disease.

 

Benefits of quercetin 

The quercetin health benefits in your body are many. Most of them stem from its ability to reduce inflammation and oxidative damage.

 

Cancer Prevention

Studies reveal that quercetin performs many jobs in the body. It is able to inhibit inflammatory pathways like TNF-α, IFN-γ, IL-4, and more. These can lead to the formation of tumors and abnormal cell activity.

 

Reduces Inflammation

One of the main reasons quercetin is useful is its ability to reduce inflammation.  For conditions  like arthritis and gout, 500 mg of quercetin a day can help reduce pain by improving stiffness and pain. 

Other studies show that quercetin might stop inflammation from alcohol-induced liver damage or infection. Quercetin stabilizes our body’s inflammatory response and helps to prevent chronic diseases.

 

Prevents Infections

One study reveals that individuals over the age of 40 who take between 500-1,000 mg of quercetin dosage a day might see a reduction in the severity of infections and symptoms.

This effect is particularly beneficial for individuals with upper respiratory tract infections (URTIs). In these cases, quercetin can help treat and manage the impact of the illness.

Can Ease Allergy Symptoms

Quercetin’s anti-inflammatory effects can also help relieve allergies. Animal studies reveal that quercetin can block certain enzymes involved in the inflammation seen in allergy processes, such as those that promote histamine production. 

In one study, quercetin supplementation prevented anaphylactic reactions in mice when given peanuts or peanut-derived foods.

 

Might Prevent Neurodegenerative Diseases

Quercetin is a powerful antioxidant, and research shows that these compounds can help protect your brain and prevent illnesses like dementia and Alzheimer’s disease. One study with mice found that those that received quercetin injections every couple of days for a few months saw a reduction of Alzheimer’s markers in the brain. Over time, the mice even performed better in learning tests.

Evidence also suggests that the quercetin content in coffee has neuroprotective effects and not just the caffeine.

 

Can Reduce Blood Pressure and Risk for Heart Disease

Quercetin can reduce blood pressure levels by relaxing blood vessels. In animal studies, those mice that took a  quercetin supplementation for over a month saw a reduction of systolic and diastolic values. Human studies have also shown that taking 500 mg of quercetin can reduce blood pressure significantly.

 

Might Reduce Blood Glucose Levels

Although not completely understood, some evidence suggests that quercetin might reduce fasting blood glucose levels. Furthermore, since it can reduce inflammation and oxidative damage, it can help prevent complications from diabetes or high blood sugar, such as neuropathy, high blood pressure, and heart disease.

 

Foods High in Quercetin

If you wonder where to buy quercetin, look no further than the grocery store or the farmer’s market. Since quercetin is very abundant in fruits and vegetables, you do not have to go too far to find it.

Quercetin is in the following foods:

  • Citrus fruits
  • Green leafy vegetables
  • Nuts
  • Buckwheat
  • Broccoli
  • Olive oil
  • Apples
  • Onions
  • Tomatoes
  • Green tea
  • Red grapes
  • Red wine
  • Cherries
  • Berries, such as blueberries and cranberries

You can also find quercetin in various plant species, with over 20 of them. Some of these include Foeniculum vulgare, Curcuma domestica valeton, Santalum album, and Cuscuta reflexa.  

 

Dates and Quercetin

Quercetin is also present in dates, giving it more antibacterial, antioxidant, and anti-inflammatory properties. 

Commercial dates and date extract contain high quercetin content, along with other flavonoids, such as luteolin and apigenin.

When dates are conserved and dried properly, the quercetin content in the fruits can be as high as 0.087 mg/100 g.

 

Quercetin interactions and side effects

The usual quercetin dosage is 500 mg a day or twice a day for a few weeks. In some cases, quercetin supplementation might cause a headache or tingle in the extremities. Very high dosages can affect your kidney function because they can be absorbed in excess.

Some quercetin interactions include antibiotics, anticoagulant drugs, and drugs absorbed in the liver. In these cases, quercetin could affect how these drugs function and could increase their effects. There is no known interaction with foods.

Taking quercetin daily can be a safe and healthy way to keep your body healthy and prevent other damage to your body. Quercetin is widely available in foods, such as dates, broccoli, tomatoes, and citrus fruits. You can use it to treat inflammatory conditions and prevent illnesses like Alzheimer’s disease and high blood pressure.

Summary

Quercetin is a powerful flavonol common in various fruits and vegetables that you eat daily. It has a strong antioxidant and anti-inflammatory effect on the body, which helps prevent illnesses. You can safely consume it as a supplement or in foods like dates, leafy greens, and citrus fruits.

Scientific Information

  • Antioxidant: compounds that help fight free radicals, chemicals, and harmful toxins that cause damage to the body
  • Flavonoids: also known as phenolic compounds or flavonols, are a group of compounds also known as phytochemicals in plants, vegetables, and fruits. Phenolic compounds are antioxidants and can be anti-inflammatory too.
  • Histamine: is a substance that affects the body. It is often released by white blood cells during allergic reactions. It can cause inflammation, tissues to contract, gastric acid to be released, and heart rate to go up. 
  •  
Written by:
Juliana Tamayo, MS
Nutrition and Dietetics
Reviewed by:
Physician and Medical Journalist

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