Flavonols, and specially quercetin, are widely distributed in plants and are present in considerable amounts in fruits and vegetables. In addition to their anti-oxidant effect, flavonols interfere with a large number of biochemical signaling pathways and, therefore, physiological and pathological processes. There is solid evidence that, in vitro, quercetin and related flavonols exert endothelium-independent vasodilator effects, protective effect on nitric oxide and endothelial function under conditions of oxidative stress, platelet antiaggregant effects, inhibition of LDL oxidation, reduction of adhesion molecules and other inflammatory markers and prevention of neuronal oxidative and inflammatory damage. The metabolites of quercetin show partial protective effects on endothelial function and LDL oxidation. Quercetin produces undisputed antihypertensive and antiatherogenic effects, prevents endothelial dysfunction and protects the myocardium from ischemic damage. It has no clear effects on serum lipid profile and on insulin resistance. Human intervention trials with isolated flavonols demonstrate an antihypertensive effect. The meta-analysis of epidemiological studies show an inverse association between flavonol (together with flavone) intake and coronary heart disease and stroke. Therefore, although there is no solid proof yet, a substantial body of evidence suggests that quercetin may prevent the most common forms of cardiovascular disease contributing to the protective effects afforded by fruits and vegetables.
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