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What Is Quercetin? An MD On Its Anti-Inflammatory Powers

As one of the top functional medicine doctors in the country, Frank Lipman, MD, is asked a wide range of health-related questions every single day. Sometimes they’re tied to something specific trending in the wellness space: Is collagen overrated? (Nope.) Is oat milk? (Possibly.) Other times, it’s about how to get a better night’s sleep. But all the queries seem to be rooted in an even bigger question: how to live a long, healthy life.

Longevity seems to be at the heart of every question he’s asked, so Dr. Lipman decided to write a whole book dedicated to the topic: The New Rules of Aging Well: A Simple Program For Immunity Resilience, Strength, and Vitality ($20), out October 27, 2020. Tucked in the pages are some “rules” you’re likely familiar with, like cutting back on sugar and having a strong sense of purpose. But there are also some surprising things that have been scientifically linked to longevity that aren’t as widely talked about. One of those truth bombs is centered around an anti-inflammatory compound called quercetin.

Never heard of it? Quercetin is a polyphenol derived in plants that is connected to lowering inflammation, supporting the immune system, and, yes, longevity. “Besides curcumin, quercetin is one of the most important supplements for both immunity and longevity,” Dr. Lipman says. Looks like turmeric has some competition.

What is quercetin?

Before we dig deep into all the benefits quercetin boasts, it’s helpful to know what the heck it actually is. Dr. Lipman explains that quercetin is a type of polyphenol, which are micronutrients with antioxidant properties found in plants. Some foods that have this particular type of polyphenol are apples, onion, raspberries, red grapes, and cherries.

Quercetin has lots of benefits, but Dr. Lipman is most excited about its connection with longevity. “One is that it affects longevity gene pathways in a positive way, specifically activating AMPK [a protein enzyme],” he says. AMPK helps regulate cellular metabolism; when cellular energy is low, AMPK is called in for backup to keep the body running as it should. It also controls cellular autophagy, aka the clearing out of damaged cells. And recent research suggests that the enzyme can potentially delay the aging process as well. One paper published in the journal Discoveries states that AMPK activation increased the life of fruit flies by as much as 30 percent.

“Quercetin is anti-inflammatory, anti-viral, and immunity-boosting,” Dr. Lipman adds—properties that are important for longevity. To his point, chronic inflammation is associated with many age-related health problems, including cognitive decline and cancer, so managing inflammation is often seen as crucial for living a longer, healthier life. Meanwhile, the immune system weakens with age, making it harder for the body to fight off illness, so keeping it in tip-top shape is critical. Quercetin also supports gut health; since a huge portion of the immune system lies in the gut, “keeping your gut healthy is very important to immunity,” says Dr. Lipman.

Don’t worry curcumin, we still