Metabolic transit and in vivo effects of melanoidins and precursor compounds deriving from the Maillard reaction

Ann Nutr Metab. 2001;45(1):1-12. doi: 10.1159/000046699.


Metabolic transit data on food-borne advanced MRPs (Maillard reaction products) termed melanoidins are yet not completely elucidated and it is still an open question whether isolated melanoidin structures undergo metabolic biotransformation and subsequently cause physiological effects in vivo. Advanced MRPs, acting as premelanoidins, and melanoidins are formed under severe heat treatment of foods and are ingested with the habitual diet at considerable amounts. Metabolic transit data are known for Amadori compounds classified as early MRPs, like, e.g., fructose-lysine. For rats and humans, the percentages of ingested free versus protein-bound fructose-lysine excreted in the urine were found within ranges of 60-80% and 3-10%, respectively. Balance studies on free advanced MRPs are still lacking, but protein-bound low-molecular-weight premelanoidins and high-molecular-weight melanoidins have already been investigated in animal experiments using (14)C-tracer isotopes. The amount of ingested radioactivity absorbed and excreted in the urine was found at levels ranging from 16 to 30% and from 1 to 5% for premelanoidins and melanoidins, respectively. These different metabolic transit data of premelanoidins and melanoidins can be explained by the following mechanisms involved: (i) intestinal degradation by digestive and microbial enzymes; (ii) absorption of these compounds or their degradates, and (iii) tissue retention. Structure specific in vivo effects have been identified for protein-bound premelanoidins on intestinal microbial activity, xenobiotic biotransformation enzymes and further glycation reactions. The latter are hypothesized to be involved in the aging process and in the course of different diseases. Further investigations are needed to clarify synergistic in vivo effects of dietary ingested melanoidins and endogenously formed glycation products.

Publication types

  • Review

MeSH terms

  • Amino Acids / metabolism*
  • Animals
  • Fructose / metabolism
  • Humans
  • Lysine / metabolism
  • Maillard Reaction*
  • Polymers / metabolism*
  • Rats


  • Amino Acids
  • Polymers
  • melanoidin polymers
  • Fructose
  • Lysine