Life Extension Magazine December 2006
Vitamin C and Dihydroquercetin
By Mark J. Neveu, PhD
Every day, our bodies are under continual assault by damaging agents known as free radicals. Generally, both internal and dietary antioxidants do an excellent job of keeping free radicals in check. However, once this balance is disrupted, lethal diseases such as cancer, heart disease, lung disease, diabetes, Parkinson’s disease, arthritis, Alzheimer’s disease, and stroke can be initiated.1-3
A wealth of scientific evidence has repeatedly demonstrated that specialized compounds in fresh fruits and vegetables exert critical protection against free-radical assault.4 Of these, vitamin C and plant substances known as flavonoids may be among nature’s most potent natural antioxidants.1-6
Exciting new studies suggest that a flavonoid called dihydroquercetin, in combination with vitamin C, provides even more powerful, synergistic protection against oxidative stress than either substance alone.
Flavonoids: Nature’s “Biological Response Modifiers”
Scientists have recently begun to attribute many of the beneficial effects of fruits, vegetables, tea, and even red wine to the flavonoid compounds they contain.5,6
Flavonoids perform two important functions in the body. First, they strengthen the body’s immune response to attacks from allergens, viruses, and carcinogens. Second, they act as powerful antioxidants, protecting the body against the oxidative stress and free-radical damage that underlie many cardiovascular, neurological, and diabetic diseases. Studies have shown that those who have increased flavonoid intake clearly demonstrate a decreased incidence and mortality of heart disease.7-10
One of the most important attributes of these flavonoids is their ability to enhance the effects of vitamin C. Vitamin C’s main function in humans is to reduce the dangerous effects of oxidative reactions throughout the body. Unfortunately, because vitamin C is water soluble, it stays in the body for only a very brief time before being excreted. This time frame limits vitamin C’s efficacy.10 Until now, it has been recommended that vitamin C be taken in several doses to maintain optimal benefits. However, flavonoids have been shown to improve the concentration and efficacy of vitamin C throughout the body. This important finding means that you can take less vitamin C while it lasts longer and works harder.11
One flavonoid, dihydroquercetin, has been found to be extremely beneficial in helping vitamin C re-circulate throughout the body. Additionally, it limits the inactivation or oxidation of vitamin C, which enables vitamin C to last longer in the body.12,13
The addition of this unique flavonoid creates an entirely new way to deliver vitamin C to cells in need of its protection. Now, supplement users can maximize their benefits from longer-lasting and more effective vitamin C.
Synergistic Effects of Vitamin C and Dihydroquercetin
Unlike plants and most animals, humans cannot manufacture vitamin C within the body and therefore must obtain it from external sources. This has led some scientists, including the late Nobel Prize-winning chemist Linus Pauling, to propose that humans would enjoy better health if they supplemented their diets with an amount of the nutrient proportional to the amount produced in animal species that manufacture their own vitamin C. Moreover, aging adults experience a decrease in vitamin C levels, which may contribute to the development of several degenerative diseases, such as cardiovascular disease, cancer, neurodegenerative conditions, and eye disorders.14-16
The combination of vitamin C and dihydroquercetin offers such tremendous promise in preserving and restoring health that it has been approved as a prescription drug in some parts of the world.
In Russia, a drug known as Ascovertin (a complex of dihydroquercetin and vitamin C) is a popular treatment for many health conditions that share oxidative stress as an underlying mechanism. Since oxidative stress characterizes many of the degenerative conditions associated with aging,1-3 Ascovertin’s potential applications are quite broad.
For example, Ascovertin may have applications in the management of stroke, a crippling, often fatal condition marked by a diminished supply of blood and oxygen to the brain. Studies of the effects of oxygen deprivation in rat brains demonstrated that Ascovertin decreased the damage caused by lack of blood flow. Additionally, Ascovertin restored normal structure and electrochemical activity to nerve synapses, the junctions that allow nerve cells to transmit information.17,18
The Russian Academy of Medical Sciences recently conducted two clinical studies of Ascovertin in 52 patients with impaired blood flow to the brain. Ascovertin was administered for 21 days. The resulting decrease in blood viscosity and blood-clotting tendency improved attention, memory, and mental performance, relieved vertigo, normalized sleep, relieved headaches, and decreased fatigue.19,20 No such changes were observed in the age-matched control patients.
Ascovertin may also protect against some of the damaging consequences of heart attack. Studies in rats showed that Ascovertin inhibits the blood clotting and brain damage that can occur following a heart attack.21,22
The tissues of the eye may benefit from Ascovertin as well. Studies in rats found that Ascovertin inhibits damage to the eye’s retina induced by high-intensity light.23