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Greater Intake of Plant Flavonols Associated with Lower Premature Mortality Risk

Quercetin fruits and vegetables

In a large, 7.8-year median follow-up study, participants who had a high intake of flavonols had a lower risk of dying from cancer, cardiovascular disease or all causes. The findings were published on February 25, 2024, in the Nature journal Scientific Reports, the world’s fifth most-cited journal.

“This finding may be related to the anti-tumor, anti-inflammatory, and anti-oxidative stress properties of flavonol,” wrote author Zhiqiang Zong and colleagues at Anhui Medical University in China.

Flavonols are found in fruits, vegetables and other plants. Individuals whose total flavonol intake was among the top 25% of subjects had an adjusted 56% lower adjusted risk of dying from cancer, a 31% lower adjusted risk of dying from cardiovascular disease and a 40% lower adjusted risk of mortality from other causes compared with people whose flavonol intake was among the lowest 25%.

Not all flavonols are created equal, however, according to the study. When researchers examined the association between individual flavonols and mortality rate, they found that having an intake in the top 25% of subjects of a specific type, quercetin, experienced a 47% reduction in the risk of dying from cancer and 38% lower risks of cardiovascular and other causes of mortality compared with those whose quercetin intake was lowest. Some food sources of quercetin include citrus fruit, apples, berries, onions, wine and tea.

The study included data from 11,679 adult participants who enrolled during 2007–2008, 2009–2010, and 2017–2018 in the National Health and Nutrition Examination Survey (NHANES) of U.S. residents. Dietary recall interview responses provided information concerning food intake, which researchers analyzed for flavonol content.


Apply What You’ve Learned: Flavonoids

  • Flavonols are a class of flavonoids (also known as bioflavonoids), which are polyphenol compounds that occur in plants. The presence of these compounds is one of the reasons that a plant-based diet is so beneficial.
  • There are six categories of flavonoids readily available in a varied human diet: flavonols, isoflavones, flavones, anthocyanidins, flavan-3-ols, and flavanones.
  • Quercetin has increasingly been recognized as a particularly beneficial flavonol. Studies have associated the intake of quercetin with support of healthy blood pressure, endothelial function and inflammatory response, and other benefits.3-5
  • Apples, berries, cherries, red leaf lettuce, asparagus and especially onions are good sources of quercetin. It is also present in some varieties of tea and wine.6 When consumed, quercetin has limited bioavailability, meaning it doesn’t directly enter circulation; however, quercetin specially formulated with fenugreek fiber has increased bioavailability in the body.7


  1. Zong Z et al. Sci Rep. 2024 Feb 25;14(1):4572.
  2. Oregon State University Linus Pauling Institute
  3. Huang H et al. Nutr Rev. 2020 Aug 1;78(8):615-626.
  4. Serban MC et al. J Am Heart Assoc. 2016 Jul 12;5(7):e002713.
  5. Dower JI et al. J Nutr. 2015 Jul;145(7):1459-63.
  6. Deepika et al. Review Molecules. 2022 Apr 13;27(8):2498.
  7. Joseph A et al. ACS Omega. 2022 Dec 9;7(50):46825-46832.

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