Quercetin longevity claims might not be as outlandish as you think. More prevalent than vitamin C and just as powerful, Quercetin, pronounced (kwer-se-tin) may be the most potent antioxidant you’ve never heard of before.
Quercetin is receiving recent attention for it’s potential antiviral role as a COVID-19 adjunct treatment.
You can find quercetin in a wide variety of fruits and vegetables. It has anti-inflammatory, anti-aging, anti-cancer and perhaps pro-longevity applications (1).
Before we dive into the details, we need to pause and ask ourselves the three big questions before adding any nutrition supplement.
- Do the benefits outweigh the risks?
- Can I get this antioxidant from food first?
- Do I have a medical condition or take a prescription medication that may interact with this supplement?
What is Quercetin?
Quercetin is a component of plants. Specifically, quercetin is a polyphenol compound called flavonoid. Flavonoids help the body be more resilient to stress by fighting free radicals from stressors and toxins.
Quercetin Longevity Link
Much of what we know about quercetin longevity link is thanks to mouse and in vitro models. Though early results are promising, things get lost in translation when applied to human models.
There is no denying that a phytochemical with antioxidant, anti-inflammatory and senolytic properties will be good for health.
But, to what degree does quercetin really help and how much should I take to experience benefits?
Some mouse studies indicated that quercetin supplementation did not extend life. So perhaps quercetin might have better implications for healthspan versus lifespan.
Healthspan is the number of years that we live disease-free.
Quercetin has both anti-inflammatory and antihistamine properties. It helps block the release of histamine and helps suppress chemicals that cause inflammation (2).
Reducing inflammation lowers blood pressure and helps reduce risk for heart disease, type 2 diabetes and other chronic diseases.
This anti-inflammatory effect may also prevent neurodegenerative diseases.
Quercetin is a powerful antioxidant and maintains the oxidative balance in the cells by reducing free radicals.
Free radicals cause oxidative damage in the body and are correlated with aging and chronic disease.
Antioxidants reduce the risk of heart disease by preventing the processes that cause plaque to build up in the arteries.
Quercetin’s anti-aging, disease prevention and anti-cancer applications are related to its antioxidant capacity (3).
Before we talk senolytics, let’s first discuss cellular senescence. A cell’s job is to grow, divide and serve the greater good. When a cell loses its ability to proliferate, it’s stuck in a limbo phase called senescence.
Senescence is often likened to a “bad apple.” One bad apple will ruin the bunch, as they say. Senescent cells can be found at injury sites related to diseases of aging, such as osteoathritis and atherosclerosis (4)
Senolytics are a classification of drug that target these senescent cells and clear them out. Seno- referencing senescence and -lytic referencing destruction.
Querecetin acts as a senolytic in the body (5). As you can imagine, there are some exciting anti-aging and longevity applications from removing senescent cells and reducing inflammation.
Combination therapies, such as Dasatinib (leukemia drug) and quercetin, are being used in practice to clear senescent cells in endothelial tissues (lining of the arteries) to help reverse heart disease. These trials are being conducted on mouse populations and have promising implications.
Food Sources of Quercetin
Like most antioxidants, quercetin is in a variety of plant foods. The best sources of quercetin are dark red, purple, and green foods.
Red and White Onion
Dark Leafy Greens (Kale, spinach)
Cherries and Berries (Elderberry, Blueberries, Raspberries, Strawberries)
Black Tea, Cocoa and Red Wine
Beans and Legumes
If quercetin is so widely available in foods, then why supplement? Generally speaking, the bioavailability (i.e. how much the body can actually use from the foods) is low.
One thing you can do to increase the bioavailability of quercetin is consume some fat and fiber with these foods (6). If this doesn’t seem possible for you, then I’d consider supplementing.
Recommended Quercetin Dosage
Suggested intake is 500 to 1,000 milligrams per day (7).
I highly recommending including quercetin-containing foods into your daily intake first.
Quercetin and Bromelain
While searching for quercetin supplements, you might find brands that include other antioxidants like vitamin C and Bromelain.
Vitamin C and Bromelain may help enhance the absorption of quercetin.
Quercetin Supplementation Risk
Generally speaking, quercetin supplementation carries a low risk (8). That said, there isn’t much data on long term supplementation.
Reported side effects of oral supplementation are headaches and tingling in hands and feet. Lastly, be sure to ask your physician before beginning any herbal supplement. You can also ask a local pharmacist about any potential medication interaction.
Should I supplement with quercetin or not?
Let’s revisit the three key questions we asked at the beginning of the article.
- Do the benefits outweigh the risks? Quercetin carries a low risk of supplementation.
- Can I get this antioxidant from food first? Yes! Eating dark leafy greens, berries, and cruciferous vegetables like broccoli are nutrient dense foods that help contribute to health. These foods are also rich sources of fiber that will help with quercetin absorption.
- Do I have a medical condition or take a prescription medication that may interact with this supplement? Low risk for chronic disease and eat a diet high in fruits and vegetables, supplementation may not be necessary. High risk for chronic disease, or my diet does not have sufficient quercetin-containing foods, I would consider supplementing.
Think of supplementing with quercetin like you would with vitamin C. For the most part of the year, add quercetin-containing foods to your daily routine to get the benefits.
During periods of high stress, poor sleep, during cold and flu season, recovering from a virus or cold, or if you discover that your blood pressure or cholesterol is higher than normal, I’d cycle a quercetin supplement to help your body recover.
You don’t have to figure out which supplements are best for you alone. That is why I am here.
Want to know more about how to use quercetin or other dietary supplements to reduce your risk of chronic disease and promote longevity? Ask me.