Bioactivity of Flavonoids on Insulin-Secreting Cells



ABSTRACT:  Flavonoids are usually found in fruits and other plant organs and therefore widely consumed. They are antioxidants, anti-inflammatory, anticarcinogenic, and protective against coronary disease and metabolic disorders. These beneficial effects make them good candidates for the development of new functional foods with potential protective/preventive properties against several diseases. We must consider that this fact could lead to a higher intake of some of these flavonoids. Most of the studies concerning their beneficial effects showed peripheral activity of these molecules, but there is no clear information about their central effects on a key organ on metabolic control: the endocrine pancreas. The pancreas has an endocrine function of major importance to regulate nutrient metabolism, such as control of glucose homeostasis via insulin and glucagon secretion. Its importance in whole body nutrient equilibrium is highlighted by the fact that several pathologies, such as type 1 and/or 2 diabetes, are related at some point to a pancreatic cell deregulation. In this review, we compile the most relevant results concerning the effects of flavonoids on several aspects of pancreatic functionality. Studies using animals with drug-induced diabetes support the hypothesis that flavonoids can ameliorate this pathogenesis. The great diversity of flavonoid structures makes it difficult to establish common effects in the pancreas. Published data suggest that there might be direct effects of flavonoids on insulin secretion, as well as on prevention of beta-cell apoptosis, and they could even act via modulation of proliferation. The mechanisms of action involve mainly their antioxidant properties, but other pathways might also take place.