At Health and Life, we are barraged on a daily basis for information from journalists, politicians and sumo wrestlers.  Most often we are not able to respond, but a few weeks ago we were asked a question that we felt deserved investigation:

Can the antioxidant quercetin give you more energy?

We had a sneaking suspicion that we had at some point encountered this substance, and were pleasantly surprised to find quercetin mentioned in a past post.

To find answers, we headed to the medical research databases we frequent.  What we found was very interesting.

First, it seems that in mice models, quercetin has been shown to increase oxygen capacity and improve muscle endurance.  Quite promising.  And, as we sifted through the data, we found other research papers with titles like: “quercetin increases brain and muscle mitochondrial biogenesis and exercise tolerance.”

Yet that too was for mice.

Then we started finding papers that said something different.  That while it improved energy in mice, in studies in humans, quercetin had no effect on performance or feeling of energy.  Study after study saying the same thing – little to no effect.

We did find one that said it had no effect on exercise performance but did reduce your risk of a upper respiratory tract infection.

What is quercetin, anyway?

Quercetin is a flavonoid, or a type of plant pigment, that acts an antioxidant.  It is one of the most abundant flavonoids and we eat about 25mg per day in the United States by normal consumption of fruits and vegetables.

If it can do anything, it is likely because it is an antioxidant.

Antioxidants in general are a big thing nowadays because they seem to promise to hold the key to better health.  They somehow fight “free radicals.”  And those are a bad thing.

Free radicals are generated by a variety of biological processes and are highly toxic to the cell.  They are even used, after all, as weapons by our immune system.  Preventing or getting rid of them is a good thing, then.

Yes.  And the benefits of doing so are likely to take a very long time to show benefit.  We highly doubt that consuming a greater amount of antioxidants would have any effect on energy levels in the short term.  Also, how much of the consumed quercetin would become biologically available?

There is more to be investigated regarding quercetin.  We encountered analyses that argued it has potent anti-cancer effects and that it may play a role in treating high blood pressure.  Yet as a quick, short-term energy booster?

Probably not the best solution.