Polyphenols from Bee Pollen: Structure, Absorption, Metabolism and Biological Activity

Molecules. 2015 Dec 4;20(12):21732-49. doi: 10.3390/molecules201219800.


Bee pollen constitutes a natural source of antioxidants such as phenolic acids and flavonoids, which are responsible for its biological activity. Research has indicated the correlation between dietary polyphenols and cardioprotective, hepatoprotective, anti-inflammatory, antibacterial, anticancerogenic, immunostimulating, antianaemic effects, as well as their beneficial influence on osseous tissue. The beneficial effects of bee pollen on health result from the presence of phenolic acids and flavonoids which possess anti-inflammatory properties, phytosterol and linolenic acid which play an anticancerogenic role, and polysaccharides which stimulate immunological activity. Polyphenols are absorbed in the alimentary tract, metabolised by CYP450 enzymes, and excreted with urine and faeces. Flavonoids and phenolic acids are characterised by high antioxidative potential, which is closely related to their chemical structure. The high antioxidant potential of phenolic acids is due to the presence and location of hydroxyl groups, a carboxyl group in the immediate vicinity of ortho-diphenolic substituents, and the ethylene group between the phenyl ring and the carboxyl group. As regards flavonoids, essential structural elements are hydroxyl groups at the C5 and C7 positions in the A ring, and at the C3' and C4' positions in the B ring, and a hydroxyl group at the C3 position in the C ring. Furthermore, both, the double bond between C2 and C3, and a ketone group at the C4 position in the C ring enhance the antioxidative potential of these compounds. Polyphenols have an ideal chemical structure for scavenging free radicals and for creating chelates with metal ions, which makes them effective antioxidants in vivo.

Keywords: antioxidants; bee pollen; natural product; polyphenols.

Publication types

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

MeSH terms

  • Animals
  • Antioxidants / chemistry
  • Antioxidants / metabolism
  • Antioxidants / pharmacology*
  • Bees
  • Humans
  • Intestinal Absorption
  • Plant Extracts / chemistry
  • Plant Extracts / metabolism
  • Plant Extracts / pharmacology*
  • Pollen / chemistry
  • Polyphenols / chemistry
  • Polyphenols / metabolism
  • Polyphenols / pharmacology*


  • Antioxidants
  • Plant Extracts
  • Polyphenols