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New Flavonoid Database Adds to Body of Nutrient Information

By Rosalie Marion Bliss
March 12, 2003

The Agricultural Research Service today launched a food composition database for a class of beneficial plant-chemical compounds called flavonoids. The new database provides analytical values for a variety of flavonoid compounds in about 224 foods. As more data become available, additional food items will be added.

The flavonoids are the largest group of plant chemicals now widely studied by the scientific community because of their purported health benefits. Dietary flavonoids fall mainly into five subclasses and are found in certain teas, wines, fruits, vegetables, nuts, seeds, roots--and even chocolate. In addition to antioxidative effects, certain flavonoids are reported to have antimicrobial and possibly anticarcinogenic and cardioprotective effects. Food flavonoids include, for example, anthocyanidins in blueberries and cherries; catechins in tea, red wine and apples; and quercetin in onions.

Dietary researchers eager to know the antioxidant-rich flavonoid content of certain foods will find a friend in the new database. Knowing the amount of dietary intakes of flavonoids is essential to researchers as they strive to evaluate associations between flavonoid intakes and risk factors for various age-related and degenerative diseases.

The new supplemental database was released by scientists from ARS' Beltsville Human Nutrition Research Center working at the Nutrient Data Laboratory (NDL), Beltsville, Md., in collaboration with the Jean Mayer USDA Human Nutrition Research Center on Aging at Tufts University in Boston, Mass., and other industry groups. It complements the NDL's core product, which is the major authoritative source of food composition information in the United States.

Other supplemental databases include those for carotenoids and isoflavones. Isoflavones are estrogenlike compounds in soy foods that may be responsible for a lower risk of cancer. Carotenoids, such as beta and alpha carotene, lycopene and lutein are another class of compounds in foods that may contribute to reducing the incidence of certain types of cancer and other chronic diseases.

To access the new database on the World Wide Web, go to:

Then, under the red "Food Composition Products" label, click on "Flavonoids."

Read more on this in the March issue of Agricultural Research magazine.

ARS is the chief scientific research agency of the U.S. Department of Agriculture.