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Plant Polyphenols for Bladder Cancer and Health

A recent animal study showing that plant polyphenols may lower the risk of cancer cell development adds to the existing research on resveratrol and quercetin. Polyphenols are plant derived chemicals thought to have antioxidant, anti-inflammatory, antibacterial and skin rejuvenating capabilities.

Resveratrol is found in over 70 plant species including nuts, grapes, pine trees, certain vines and red wine. Some experts believe resveratrol may be a factor in the French paradox that coronary heart disease mortality in France is lower than other similar industrialized countries due to the frequent consumption of red wine.

Resveratrol has been shown in animal and laboratory studies to exhibit antioxidant, anticancer, antiproliferative, antifungal, antiviral and antibacterial effects. However, data in humans is lacking.

At this time, there are no high quality human trials available supporting the efficacy of resveratrol for any indication. However, there are several observational studies that correlate the consumption of wine with a decrease in cancer and/or cardiovascular disease risk. There are multiple possible contributing factors to these conditions, and studies of resveratrol are difficult to design and implement. Too much alcohol intake can actually be dangerous. Further research is needed before a firm recommendation can be made.

Quercetin is a major flavonol, one of the almost 4,000 flavonoids (antioxidants) that occur in foods of plant origin, such as red wine, onions, green tea, apples, berries and brassica vegetables (cabbage, broccoli, cauliflower and turnips). It is also found in Gingko biloba, St. John's wort and American elder. It mainly occurs in plants as glycosides, such as rutin (quercetin rutinoside) in tea.

Quercetin and rutin are used in many countries as vasoprotectants (for blood vessel health) and are ingredients of numerous multivitamin preparations and herbal remedies. They occur mainly as glycosides or molecules in which a sugar part is bound to some other part. It is uncertain to what extent dietary flavonoid glycosides are absorbed from the gut. Flavonoids, dietary components in vegetables, fruits and beverages, may protect against coronary heart disease, stroke and cancer. However, the ability of the body to absorb these compounds is questionable.

Quercetin and other flavonols have a wide variety of biological effects, but the scientific evidence for use in prevention or treatment of disease is weak. Quercetin has been considered as a therapy for cardiovascular diseases, high cholesterol, cancers, diabetic cataracts, inflammation, ischemic injury, chronic prostatitis, chronic venous insufficiency, gastrointestinal ulceration, hepatitis, allergies, asthma, viral infections and hay fever.

Review of the literature shows several studies on the association with risk reduction for coronary heart disease and stroke, cancers and a few studies on other medical conditions. However, there is not strong evidence to support for any of these associations.


1) Makena PS, Chung KT. Effects of various plant polyphenols on bladder carcinogen benzidine-induced mutagenicity. Food Chem Toxicol. 2007 Oct;45(10):1899-909. Epub 2007 Apr 21.

This article was published on Wednesday November 07, 2007.
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