Health effects of quercetin: from antioxidant to nutraceutical.
Quercetin, a member of the flavonoids family, is one of the most prominent dietary antioxidants. It is ubiquitously present in foods including vegetables, fruit, tea and wine as well as countless food supplements and is claimed to exert beneficial health effects. This includes protection against various diseases such as osteoporosis, certain forms of cancer, pulmonary and cardiovascular diseases but also against aging. Especially the ability of quercetin to scavenge highly reactive species such as peroxynitrite and the hydroxyl radical is suggested to be involved in these possible beneficial health effects. Consequently, numerous studies have been performed to gather scientific evidence for these beneficial health claims as well as data regarding the exact mechanism of action and possible toxicological aspects of this flavonoid. The purpose of this review is to evaluate these studies in order to elucidate the possible health-beneficial effects of the antioxidant quercetin. Firstly, the definitions as well as the most important aspects regarding free radicals, antioxidants and oxidative stress will be discussed as background information. Subsequently, the mechanism by which quercetin may operate as an antioxidant (tested in vitro) as well as the potential use of this antioxidant as a nutraceutical (tested both ex vivo and in vivo) will be discussed.