Hydrolysable tannins are phenolic phytochemicals that show high antioxidant and free-radical scavenging activities. For this reason their potential effects preventing oxidative related diseases, such as cardiovascular diseases, have been largely studied. In vitro studies show that ellagitannins, at concentrations in the range 10-100 μM, show some relevant anti-atherogenic, anti-thrombotic, anti-inflammatory and anti-angiogenic effects, supporting the molecular mechanisms for the vascular health benefits. While there is good evidence supporting the vascular effects in vitro, the evidence on animal models or humans is much scarcer. The in vitro results often do not match the findings in the in vivo studies. This could be explained by the low bioavailability of the antioxidant ellagitannins and ellagic acid. The main ellagitannin metabolites circulating in plasma are ellagic acid microbiota metabolites known as urolithins, and they have lost their free-radical scavenging activity. They are present in plasma as glucuronide or sulphate conjugates, at concentrations in the nM range. Future studies should focus in the bioavailable metabolites, urolithins, and in the form (conjugated with glucuronic acid or sulphate) and concentrations (nM range) in which they are found in plasma. In this review we critically discuss the role of ellagitannins and ellagic acid on vascular health.
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