Updated knowledge about polyphenols: functions, bioavailability, metabolism, and health

Crit Rev Food Sci Nutr. 2012;52(10):936-48. doi: 10.1080/10408398.2010.513779.


Polyphenols are important constituents of food products of plant origin. Fruits, vegetables, and beverages are the main sources of phenolic compounds in the human diet. These compounds are directly related to sensory characteristics of foods such as flavor, astringency and color. Polyphenols are extensively metabolized both in tissues and by the colonic microbiota. Normally, the circulating polyphenols are glucuronidated and/or sulphated and no free aglycones are found in plasma. The presence of phenolic compounds in the diet is beneficial to health due to their antioxidant, anti-inflammatory, and vasodilating properties. The health effects of polyphenols depend on the amount consumed and their bioavailability. Moreover, polyphenols are able to kill or inhibit the growth of microorganisms such as bacteria, fungi, or protozoans. Some dietary polyphenols may have significant effects on the colonic flora providing a type of prebiotic effect. The anti-nutrient properties of polyphenols are also discussed in this paper. The antioxidant, anti-inflammatory, vasodilating, and prebiotic properties of polyphenols make them potential functional foods.

Publication types

  • Research Support, Non-U.S. Gov't
  • Retracted Publication
  • Review

MeSH terms

  • Animals
  • Anti-Infective Agents / pharmacokinetics
  • Anti-Infective Agents / pharmacology
  • Anti-Inflammatory Agents / pharmacokinetics
  • Anti-Inflammatory Agents / pharmacology
  • Antioxidants / pharmacokinetics
  • Antioxidants / pharmacology
  • Biological Availability
  • Colon / microbiology
  • Diet*
  • Fruit
  • Functional Food / analysis
  • Health Promotion*
  • Humans
  • Metagenome
  • Models, Animal
  • Polyphenols / pharmacokinetics*
  • Polyphenols / pharmacology*
  • Prebiotics
  • Vasodilation
  • Vegetables


  • Anti-Infective Agents
  • Anti-Inflammatory Agents
  • Antioxidants
  • Polyphenols
  • Prebiotics