Citrus Bioflavonoids: How They Support Longevity, Metabolic Health & More*
Citrus is known for its powerful antioxidant potential, but there's more to this fruit than its vitamin C content. Certain compounds in citrus, known as citrus bioflavonoids, have been shown to provide a slew of health benefits.* And, while research on citrus bioflavonoids is ongoing, these powerful antioxidants show plenty of promise.
What are citrus bioflavonoids?
Citrus bioflavonoids are a unique set of phytochemicals—meaning, they're compounds produced by plants. While vitamin C is a micronutrient found in citrus fruits, citrus bioflavonoids are phytonutrients also found in citrus fruits, says functional medicine nutritionist Brooke Scheller, DCN. "This is a class of antioxidant compounds that include some familiar ones, like quercetin," she explains.
Scheller is referring to the broad and powerful class of phytochemicals known as flavonoids. In addition to quercetin, the following compounds fall under the citrus bioflavonoid umbrella:
"They're not vitamins or minerals, but they're unique," says Zhaoping Li, M.D., Ph.D., nutrition researcher, professor of medicine, and chief of the Division of Clinical Nutrition at the University of California, Los Angeles. "These are the compounds that the plant has developed to protect itself from oxidation. Humans have evolved to take advantage of those compounds the plants produce and use them to protect us as well."* (In case you needed one more reason to eat more plant-centric!)
Citrus bioflavonoids can be found in the pulp of citrus fruits, but "they're more abundant in the rind," notes Jamie Alan, Ph.D., associate professor of pharmacology and toxicology at Michigan State University.
They also show up in some specialized vitamin C supplements as bioactives that complement vitamin C and help protect it from oxidation.*
"The reason why citrus bioflavonoids pair nicely with vitamin C is because of the synergy that occurs between the two when found in nature—as in when consumed in citrus fruits," Scheller says. "More utility and benefits of these antioxidants occur when they work together, versus using vitamin C alone, as the bioflavonoids are suggested to help with vitamin C absorption in the body."*
5 benefits of citrus bioflavonoids.
Citrus bioflavonoids aren't just a complement to vitamin C that enhance the antioxidant's health benefits (though they do an incredible job of helping buffer C from oxidation1)—they have their own things going on as well.*
Here are some of the major benefits you get from having these phytonutrients in your life:
They help modulate your metabolism.
A review published by Current Opinion in Lipidology found that citrus bioflavonoids promote anti-inflammatory activity2 in certain tissues linked to metabolism—including the liver, adipose tissue, kidneys, and your aorta, (i.e., the main artery that carries blood away from your heart to the rest of your body).*
The precise mechanisms aren't entirely revealed yet, but "these compounds, on a very fundamental level, help the cells do better,"* Li says. She adds, "At a higher level, that will have an impact on metabolism."*
They help buffer against oxidative stress.
In fact, an animal study published by BMC Pharmacology and Toxicology specifically linked the citrus bioflavonoid hesperidin to lower levels of oxidative stress4 (i.e., a healthy balance between antioxidants and free radicals).*
While some free radicals in the body are a part of normal physiological processes (e.g., immune response and cellular reactions throughout the body), balancing the antioxidant-to-free-radical ratio to tackle oxidative stress is important for optimal heart, immune, and metabolic health—and citrus bioflavonoids help promote this activity.*
They support a healthy immune system.
Additionally, citrus bioflavonoids can bolster gastrointestinal functioning and health.* And, as we know, a healthy gut is crucial to a well-functioning immune system.* This relationship can, in turn, affect the whole body.
"[Citrus bioflavonoids] can have a significant impact on your gut microbiome balance, and the bacteria can release small molecules that get into your blood and have an impact on everything,"* Li says.
They can promote insulin sensitivity and balanced glucose levels.
Normal glucose tolerance and insulin sensitivity are pivotal aspects of endocrine and metabolic health. According to a review published in Oxidative Medicine and Cellular Longevity, citrus bioflavonoids can help bolster both of those areas6.*
"These compounds can help the beta cells in your pancreas make insulin," Li says, and "they may also help the liver process food."*
They promote healthy aging.
Citrus bioflavonoids have been used to help foster healthy aging and longevity, and research supports that.*
In one lab study7 published by Molecules, researchers analyzed the impact of the citrus bioflavonoid neohesperidin on yeast and found it decreased the buildup of reactive oxygen species7 (ROS) in the yeast.* Li links this to citrus bioflavonoids' hallmark ability to fight oxidative stress.*
As you've seen, combating free radicals has a number of positive effects on multiple areas of health and can have a profound impact on our heart, skin, and immune health throughout the lifespan.*
Foods, supplements, and personal care products with citrus bioflavonoids.
"The compounds can work topically, but they probably work better if you actually ingest them," Li explains. "It's beauty from the inside out."*
Li recommends getting your citrus bioflavonoids from fruit because the more plants we consume, the better. "Often, these compounds work well with other things as they coexist in nature," she explains. That means eating plenty of citrus fruits like oranges, tangerines, lemons, limes, and grapefruits.
Additionally, you can choose to leverage a colorful array of citrus bioflavonoids sourced from whole fruits and concentrated in a high-quality supplement (like mbg's vitamin C potency+).
The bottom line.
Citrus bioflavonoids are antioxidants that don't get a lot of attention. Despite their obscurity, these unsung heroes can help support the many roles vitamin C plays in your body and have incredible benefits of their own.*
In addition to eating a rainbow of fruits and vegetables for an array of phytonutrients, a guaranteed and potent dose of citrus bioflavonoids from a quality supplement can be a complementary approach.
mindbodygreen's vitamin C potency+ supplement contains a vitamin C/lipid/citrus bioflavonoid trio for optimized vitamin C bioavailability and retention, plus a citrus bioflavonoid complex from 100% whole citrus fruits to help protect the vitamin C in your body.* Talk about harnessing the full power of citrus!
Korin Miller is a freelance writer specializing in general wellness, relationships, and lifestyle trends with a master’s degree from American University. Her work has appeared in Women’s Health, Prevention, Self, Glamour, and more. She lives by the beach, and hopes to own a taco truck one day.