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. 2010 Jan;20(1):1-6.
doi: 10.1016/j.numecd.2009.05.015. Epub 2009 Aug 26.

Polyphenols and Health: What Compounds Are Involved?

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Polyphenols and Health: What Compounds Are Involved?

D Del Rio et al. Nutr Metab Cardiovasc Dis. .

Abstract

On the basis of prospective, cross-sectional and intervention studies linking polyphenols to human health, several experimental papers in the literature have tried to evaluate the molecular mechanisms involved in their bioactivity. Polyphenols are reported to in vitro inhibit cancer cell proliferation, reduce vascularisation, protect neurons, stimulate vasodilation and improve insulin secretion, but are often studied as aglycones or as sugar conjugates and at non-physiological concentration. However, it is now well established that polyphenols undergo substantial metabolism after being ingested by humans in dietary relevant amount and that concentrations of plasma metabolites after a normal dietary intake rarely exceed nmol/L. This viewpoint intends to highlight that uncritical judgements made on the basis of the published literature, particularly about toxicity and bioactivity, may sometimes have been misled and misleading and to conclude that i) bioavailability values reported in the literature for phenolic compounds should be strongly reconsidered in the light of the large number of newly identified circulating and excreted metabolites, with particular attention to colonic ring-fission products which are obviously contributing much more than expected to the percentage of their absorption; ii) it is phenolic metabolites, formed in the small intestine and hepatic cells, and low molecular weight catabolic products of the colonic microflora to travel around the human body in the circulatory system or reach body tissues to elicit bioactive effects. Understanding these compounds certainly carries interest for drug-discovery but also for dietary prevention of disease.

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