Bioavailability issues in studying the health effects of plant polyphenolic compounds

Mol Nutr Food Res. 2008 Jun;52 Suppl 1:S139-51. doi: 10.1002/mnfr.200700234.


Polyphenolic compounds are common in the diet and have been suggested to have a number of beneficial health effects including prevention of cancer, cardiovascular disease, diabetes, and others. For some dietary polyphenols, certain benficial effects are suggested by epidemiological studies, some are supported by studies in animal models, and still others are extrapolated from studies in vitro. Because of the relatively poor bioavailability of many of these compounds, the molecular basis of these beneficial effects is not clear. In the present review, we discuss the potential health benefits of dietary polyphenols from the point of view of bioavailability. Tea catechins, curcumin, and proanthocyanidins are used as examples to illustrate some of the problems that need to be resolved. Further research on both the biological activity and bioavailability of dietary polyphenols is needed to properly assess their usefulness for the prevention and treatment of disease.

Publication types

  • Research Support, N.I.H., Extramural
  • Research Support, Non-U.S. Gov't
  • Review

MeSH terms

  • Animals
  • Anticarcinogenic Agents / pharmacokinetics
  • Anticarcinogenic Agents / therapeutic use*
  • Biological Availability*
  • Biotransformation
  • Cardiovascular Diseases / prevention & control
  • Diabetes Mellitus / prevention & control
  • Flavonoids / pharmacokinetics
  • Flavonoids / therapeutic use*
  • Humans
  • Mice
  • Models, Animal
  • Neoplasms / prevention & control
  • Phenols / pharmacokinetics
  • Phenols / therapeutic use*
  • Plant Extracts / pharmacokinetics
  • Plant Extracts / therapeutic use*
  • Polyphenols
  • Protective Agents / pharmacokinetics
  • Protective Agents / therapeutic use*
  • Safety


  • Anticarcinogenic Agents
  • Flavonoids
  • Phenols
  • Plant Extracts
  • Polyphenols
  • Protective Agents