Flavonoids as anti-inflammatory agents: implications in cancer and cardiovascular disease
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Chronic inflammation is being shown to be increasingly involved in the onset and development of several pathological disturbances such as arteriosclerosis, obesity, diabetes, neurodegenerative diseases and even cancer. Treatment for chronic inflammatory disorders has not been solved, and there is an urgent need to find new and safe anti-inflammatory compounds. Flavonoids belong to a group of natural substances occurring normally in the diet that exhibit a variety of beneficial effects on health. The anti-inflammatory properties of flavonoids have been studied recently, in order to establish and characterize their potential utility as therapeutic agents in the treatment of inflammatory diseases. Several mechanisms of action have been proposed to explain in vivo flavonoid anti-inflammatory actions, such as antioxidant activity, inhibition of eicosanoid generating enzymes or the modulation of the production of proinflammatory molecules. Recent studies have also shown that some flavonoids are modulators of proinflammatory gene expression, thus leading to the attenuation of the inflammatory response. However, much work remains to be done in order to achieve definitive conclusions about their potential usefulness. This review summarizes the known mechanisms involved in the anti-inflammatory activity of flavonoids and the implications of these effects on the protection against cancer and cardiovascular disease.