Background: It is widely believed that antioxidant micronutrients obtained from fruit and vegetables afford significant protection against cancer and heart disease, as well as ageing. Flavonoids are potential antioxidants found in foods such as onions; information on their effectiveness in vivo is so far lacking.
Aims: To determine uptake as well as in vivo antioxidant effects of flavonoids from foods.
Methods: Six healthy non-obese normocholesterolaemic female volunteers in the age range 20-44 years participated in a randomised two-phase crossover supplementation trial to compare the antioxidant effects associated with (a) a meal of fried onions and (b) a meal of fried onions and fresh cherry tomatoes. Plasma flavonoids, lymphocyte DNA damage, plasma ascorbic acid, tocopherols and carotenoids, urinary malondialdehyde and 8-hydroxy-2'-deoxyguanosine were determined to assess flavonoid absorption and antioxidant efficacy.
Results: Flavonoid glucosides (quercetin-3-glucoside and isorhamnetin-4-glucoside) were significantly elevated in plasma following ingestion of the onion meal and the increases were associated with an increased resistance of lymphocyte DNA to DNA strand breakage. A significant decrease in the level of urinary 8-hydroxy-2'-deoxyguanosine was evident at 4 h following ingestion of the onion meal. After the combined tomato and onion meal, only quercetin was detected in plasma. Endogenous base oxidation was decreased but resistance to strand breakage was unchanged. There was no significant change in the excretion of urinary malondialdehyde following either meal.
Conclusion: Both meals--onions, and onions together with tomatoes--led to transient decreases in biomarkers of oxidative stress, although the particular biomarkers affected differ. It is possible that the differences in patterns of response reflect the different uptakes of flavonoids but the underlying mechanism is not understood.