Current issues in research on health effects by polyphenols are addressed. As to the cardiovascular system, flow-mediated dilation (FMD), a functional biomarker, can be used as surrogate marker for cardiovascular risk. Acute short-term effects peaking at 2h after ingestion of polyphenol-rich food items are distinguished from longer-term effects over days and weeks. The role of polyphenol metabolites as bioactives is presented, underlining that specific target enzymes such as NADPH oxidases or lipoxygenases provide a basis for molecular action of polyphenols, rather than unspecific direct antioxidant effects. Cautionary words are given for the use of non-compositional assays of 'total antioxidant capacity' (TAC) in blood plasma. Enhanced interest emerges for polyphenols in the gastrointestinal tract. Recommendations for health professionals and the public are summarized, as well as prospects and challenges for future research.
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