Healthy Aging Month: A Celebration of Flavonoids
Updated: Apr 15
September is Healthy Aging Month, and for the last 20 years has been a time for many to focus on the positive aspects of growing older by sharing practical ideas and inspiration for adults, 45 and older, to improve their physical, mental, social, and even financial well-being (1).
Healthy Aging magazine, a subscription devoted to helping aging adults live healthier lives, gives several practical tips on how to celebrate during the month, and beyond, to maintain a healthy lifestyle (1). Examples include:
- Exercise daily
- Stay social
- Learn something new
- Practice yoga
- Get a good night’s sleep
- Eat healthy
Approximately 39 percent of the U.S. population is over the age of 45 (2). With so many people in that age range, researchers continue to look for additional ways to help them maintain healthy lifestyles as they age. This includes studies on dietary ingredients that could potentially have positive effects on aging adults. A study in The American Journal of Clinical Nutrition examined women’s intake of dietary ingredients that were high in flavonoids and how consuming those ingredients related to healthy aging (3).
Samieri, et al., defines healthy aging as “surviving to older ages free of major chronic diseases and maintaining good cognitive, physical, and mental health” (3). The development of many major chronic diseases is often associated with oxidative stress. Oxidative stress is essentially an imbalance between the production of free radicals and antioxidants in the body. It occurs when “there are more free radicals present than can be kept in balance by antioxidants” (4). Consumption of dietary antioxidants could be an important step in promoting healthy aging (3).
Flavonoids, and their various subclasses, are a great example of dietary antioxidants and are present in many fruits and vegetables, like oranges, strawberries, blueberries, onions, apples, purple corn, and many others. They are responsible for the vivid colors in fruits and vegetables. Flavonoid subclasses include anthocyanins, flavanols, flavones, flavonols, flavonones, and isoflavones (5).
Numerous studies show an association between the consumption of flavonoids and flavonoid-containing foods, and lower risks of many major chronic diseases affecting aging adults. These diseases include fatal or nonfatal cardiovascular disease, hypertension, stroke, cancer, diabetes, and neurodegenerative diseases. Samieri, et al., focused their research on flavonoid intake at midlife because “midlife factors may be critical to preventing chronic conditions of aging which generally evolve over decades” (3).
The study included 13,818 women, in their late 50s, from the Nurses’ Health Study that had no major chronic diseases and provided data through a mailed questionnaire regarding their medical histories, health, and lifestyles. For this study, major chronic diseases were defined as one of the following: cancer (other than nonmelanoma skin cancer), type 2 diabetes, myocardial infarction, coronary artery bypass surgery or percutaneous transluminal coronary angioplasty, congestive heart failure, stroke, kidney failure, chronic obstructive pulmonary disease, Parkinson’s disease, multiple sclerosis, and amyotrophic lateral sclerosis.
Results from the study showed that “of 13,818 participants, 12,403 subjects (89.8%) had no cognitive impairment, 9,565 subjects (69.2%) had none of the 11 chronic diseases in the study’s definition of healthy aging, 5,947 subjects (43.0%) had no mental health limitations, and 3,750 subjects (27.1%) had no impairment of physical function.” Overall, 1,517 subjects (11.0%) were considered healthy agers, whereas the remaining 12,301 participants (89.0%) were considered usual agers. The results prompted the researchers to conclude that a higher intake of flavonoids at midlife (specifically flavones, flavanones, anthocyanins, and flavonols) is associated with a greater chance of health and wellbeing in individuals who survive to older ages (3).
Read the full study: https://academic.oup.com/ajcn/article/100/6/1489/4576545
(1) Healthy Aging Month: Physical, Social, Mental Tips. (2020). Healthy Aging Magazine. https://healthyaging.net/healthy-lifestyle/healthy-aging-month-10-skin-care-tips-2/
(2) Age and Sex Composition: 2010. (2011). United States Census Bureau. https://www.census.gov/prod/cen2010/briefs/c2010br-03.pdf
(3) Samieri, C., Sun, Q., Townsend, M. K., Rimm, E. B., Grodstein, F. (2014). Dietary flavonoid intake at midlife and healthy aging in women. The American Journal of Clinical Nutrition, 100(6), 1489-1497. https://doi.org/10.3945/ajcn.114.085605
(4) Everything You Should Know About Oxidative Stress. (2020). Healthline. https://www.healthline.com/health/oxidative-stress#takeaway
(5) What Are Flavonoids? (October 20, 2015). Live Science. https://www.livescience.com/52524-flavonoids.html