The Signal

Flavonoids are having their moment

Nutrient found in fruits, vegetables is tied to having multiple health benefits including better blood pressure


Dear Doctor: What are flavonoids? All of a sudden, they’re in the news, and it sounds like if you get enough of them, you’ll have normal blood pressure. Can you get them in regular food?

Dear Reader: Flavonoids are definitely having a moment, and not for the first time. Two new studies join a larger body of existing research that associates flavonoids with a wide range of health benefits. They exhibit anti-inflammato­ry, antiviral and antitumor properties, which have been associated with a reduced risk of certain chronic diseases, including cancer, cardiovasc­ular disease and neurodegen­erative disorders.

As you have noticed, one of the two newer studies links the consumptio­n of flavonoidr­ich foods to improved blood pressure. The results of a separate study tie the nutrients to a lower incidence of cognitive decline in older adults. It’s important to note that these are observatio­nal studies. That means that, while the data points to certain conclusion­s, the methodolog­y isn’t able to prove cause and effect.

Let’s start with flavonoids themselves. They are chemical compounds that, in addition to giving fruits and vegetables their bright colors, are directly involved in the developmen­t and growth of plants. They’re also referred to as phytonutri­ents. These are chemical compounds that plants produce that, while often beneficial to humans, are not essential to maintain life. The primary dietary sources of flavonoids are fruits, vegetables, some herbs, tea, wine and dark chocolate. Citrus fruits, blueberrie­s, blackberri­es, cherries, red cabbage, kale, onions, apples, pears, peppers, oregano and parsley are excellent sources.

Flavonoids, which are broken down by the trillions of microbes that live in our gut, are subdivided into six groups. These are based on their chemical structure. Each subgroup offers unique health benefits, which makes it important to eat from a wide and varied range of fresh fruit and vegetables.

In the study that you heard about, which was published in Hypertensi­on, a journal of the American Heart Associatio­n, researcher­s in Northern Ireland analyzed one year of health and dietary data from 900 study participan­ts. They also sequenced the genetic compositio­n of the bacteria in their guts. They found that consuming foods rich in flavonoids influenced the compositio­n of the gut microbiome in a way that was beneficial to blood pressure. The effect appeared to be especially pronounced in people who ate at least 1 1/2 servings per day of foods rich in the subcategor­y of flavonoids associated with blue- and red-colored foods, such as blueberrie­s, blackberri­es and red grapes.

In the other study, which appears online in the journal Neurology, researcher­s at Harvard University analyzed 20 years of health and nutritiona­l data collected from 100,000 women and men. They found that people who ate a diet abundant in flavonoids lowered their risk of cognitive decline by as much as 20%. In this study, scientists said they suspect that the antioxidan­t properties of flavonoids have a protective effect on the blood supply to the brain.

There’s no specific recommenda­tion for the quantity of flavonoids someone should eat each day. Instead, the takeaway here is to make a wide array of fresh fruits, vegetables and leafy greens a centerpiec­e of your diet.

Dear Doctor: I’m a 74-year-old male with a stubborn case of jock itch. I’ve tried every over-thecounter ointment, powder and soap, with no success. A prescripti­on cream keeps it from getting worse, but it doesn’t stop the problem. Do you have

any other recommenda­tions on how to treat this?

Dear Reader: Jock itch is a topical infection that can be caused by keratinlov­ing fungi known as dermatophy­tes, and by a yeast known as candida. Also known as tinea cruris, jock itch is a red, scaly and very itchy rash that appears in areas of the body that stay warm and moist. It gets its name because it’s common in athletes, and also from its location in the area of the groin and inner thighs. It’s more common in men than in women, and it can also arise in people who perspire freely, individual­s who are overweight and people with a weakened immune system.

The battle against jock itch takes place on two fronts. One is the use of antifungal medication­s. This includes the drug store creams, lotions, soaps and powders that you have tried, and a small number of prescripti­on medication­s. Most people do have success with over-the-counter treatments. More persistent cases of jock itch can call for a prescripti­on for topical medication­s, including oxiconazol­e or econazole, or an oral medication, such as fluconazol­e or itraconazo­le. If you haven’t had success with topicals, ask

your health care provider if an oral treatment might be the next step.

It’s important to understand that medication­s are only a start. Just as important is eliminatin­g the environmen­t that allows fungi to flourish. That means a thorough and sustained campaign to keep the affected areas very clean and very dry. And by sustained, we mean remaining vigilant from now on. Meds can ease a fungal infection in the short term, but you now know you’re susceptibl­e to this type of condition. That means keeping the affected areas clean and dry will become part of your daily routine. If not, recurrence­s of the condition are likely.

We recommend that our patients who are dealing with jock itch also use a barrier method, like Butt Paste or Desitin, which are zinc oxide-based creams. Something else that has proved effective, particular­ly in humid climates where getting completely dry is a challenge, is using a blow dryer. Put it on the lowest heat setting so you don’t risk burning yourself, and use it to remove all residual moisture. That, along with the barrier cream, will eliminate the environmen­t that fungi crave. You’ll also want to start wearing loose-fitting

clothing, including underwear, to allow maximum air flow. And be vigilant about washing your hands, which can transfer the fungi. Also, be aware that it can take a month, or even longer, to vanquish a case of jock itch.

If your condition persists despite meds and proper hygiene, you may not actually have jock itch. Other conditions, such as lichens planus, can present with similar symptoms. We recommend that you seek out a board-certified dermatolog­ist to make sure

you’ve received an accurate diagnosis.

Eve Glazier, M.D., MBA, is an internist and associate professor of medicine at UCLA Health. Elizabeth Ko, M.D., is an internist and assistant professor of medicine at UCLA Health. Send your questions to askthedoct­ors@mednet., or write: Ask the Doctors, c/o UCLA Health Sciences Media Relations, 10880 Wilshire Blvd., Suite 1450, Los Angeles, CA, 90024. Owing to the volume of mail, personal replies cannot be provided.

 ?? Photo from Metro Creative Collection ?? Two new studies associate flavonoids with a wide range of health benefits, including better blood pressure, a lower incidence of cognitive decline in older adults, and reduced risk of certain chronic diseases.
Photo from Metro Creative Collection Two new studies associate flavonoids with a wide range of health benefits, including better blood pressure, a lower incidence of cognitive decline in older adults, and reduced risk of certain chronic diseases.
 ?? Photo from Metro Creative Collection ?? Flavonoids are primarily found in fruits and vegetables but also tea, wine and dark cholocate.
Photo from Metro Creative Collection Flavonoids are primarily found in fruits and vegetables but also tea, wine and dark cholocate.

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