What are flavones, catechins, anthocyanins, and those healthy plant compounds?


    Many of the healthy compounds you hear about are all unique compounds that share similarities in how they are shaped and (thus) how they function in the body. Each compound is unique, but those in certain 'classes' share similarities with each other.

    For the purpose of this article, we will break things down into 'tiers' for comprehension.

    • The first tier are 3 compounds, which everything are related to

    • The second tier looks in depth at these 3 compounds and what they can turn into

    To investigate compounds further, please go through their respective pages.

    First Tier - Flavonoid / Bioflavonoid

    The first tier is with the ultimate parent compound, the 'Flavonoid' and sometimes referred to as 'Vitamin P'. It is broken down into three subcategories based on how one ring is adhered to the center ring structure.


    Image credit goes to this study, with some modifications for neoflavonoids.[1]

    When the ring is adhered to the 2 carbon, it is a Flavone, when adhered to the 3 carbon, it is a Isoflavonoid, and when adhered to the 4 carbon, it is a Neoflavonoid. All these compounds are Flavonoids, but they are different types of flavonoids.

    Note on derivatives

    All the above compounds have ketone groups, which are oxygen atoms double bonded (indicated by an O connected by two lines) to a carbon that is not at the end of a chain, and somewhere in the middle of the structure.

    If a molecule loses its ketone group, its name gets an A in place of an O. Flavonoid turns into Flavanoid, and Flavonol turns into Flavanol.

    Second Tier - Flavone and similar structures

    All these structures had the phenyl group (outer ring) attached where a flavone should, at the 2 carbon. Slight modifications beyond this can change the molecule further, however. A flavone can be subcategorized into:

    • Flavones (Flavone backbone, double bond between Carbon 2 and 3)
    • Flavonols (hydroxy group at the 3-carbon; between the ketone and outer ring)
    • Flavanols (lacking the ketone group)
    • Flavanones (Flavone backbone without the double bond)
    • Anthocyanins (Similar to Flavanols, will explain below)

    Popular Flavones include:

    Popular flavonols include:

    Popular flavanols include:

    Popular Flavanones include:

    Popular Anthocyanins include:

    Although Anthocyanins fall under the flavanol/catechin category, they have two small changes (a double bond between C2 and C3 on the center ring, and a protonated oxygen on the same ring) that result in quite different effects in the body. Due to this, anthocyanins are sometimes seen as their own subcategory.


    Second Tier - Neoflavonoid derivatives

    Not much is known about neoflavonoids at this point in time, thus succinct information about compounds derived from neoflavonoids is not available.

    Other structures related to Bioflavonoids

    If a bioflavonoid has a 5-carbon ring in the center rather than the typical 6-carbon ring structure, it is known as an Aurone.[2]


    1. ^Loa J, Chow P, Zhang KStudies of structure-activity relationship on plant polyphenol-induced suppression of human liver cancer cellsCancer Chemother Pharmacol.(2009 May)
    2. ^Boumendjel AAurones: a subclass of flavones with promising biological potentialCurr Med Chem.(2003 Dec)