Apple juice containing high amounts of antioxidative polyphenols might protect the intestine against oxidative cell damage. We investigated the preventive effectiveness of polyphenolic juice extracts of different origins (cider and table apples) in comparison to their major constituents in human colon cell lines (Caco-2, HT29). Parameters studied were (oxidative) DNA damage (Comet assay), glutathione level (photometric kinetic assay), cellular redox status (dichlorofluorescein assay) and antioxidant capacity. The extracts (50-250 microg/mL) modulated DNA damage and redox status in a concentration-dependent manner at 24-h incubation. The pomace extraction technology, applied for juice preparation, and the preferential selection of cider apple varieties influenced the polyphenolic pattern and increased the biological effectiveness of the extracts. The preventive potential of major juice constituents (1-100 microM, 24 h) strongly differed: rutin, epicatechin and caffeic acid clearly reduced (oxidative) DNA damage (Caco-2), chlorogenic acid efficiently decreased cellular reactive oxygen species level (HT29, Caco-2). The aglyca quercetin and phloretin exhibited the highest preventive/antioxidant capacity in all assays. The stability of the compounds inversely correlated with their preventive effectiveness and might contribute to the observed cell specific sensitivities. In conclusion, apple juice extracts distinctly reduce oxidative cell damage in human colon cell lines, an effect, which in part can be accounted for by their major constituents.