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Am J Clin Nutr. 2004 May;79(5):727-47.

Polyphenols: food sources and bioavailability.

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  • 1Unité des Maladies Métaboliques et Micronutriments, INRA, 63122 Saint-Genès Champanelle, France.


Polyphenols are abundant micronutrients in our diet, and evidence for their role in the prevention of degenerative diseases such as cancer and cardiovascular diseases is emerging. The health effects of polyphenols depend on the amount consumed and on their bioavailability. In this article, the nature and contents of the various polyphenols present in food sources and the influence of agricultural practices and industrial processes are reviewed. Estimates of dietary intakes are given for each class of polyphenols. The bioavailability of polyphenols is also reviewed, with particular focus on intestinal absorption and the influence of chemical structure (eg, glycosylation, esterification, and polymerization), food matrix, and excretion back into the intestinal lumen. Information on the role of microflora in the catabolism of polyphenols and the production of some active metabolites is presented. Mechanisms of intestinal and hepatic conjugation (methylation, glucuronidation, sulfation), plasma transport, and elimination in bile and urine are also described. Pharmacokinetic data for the various polyphenols are compared. Studies on the identification of circulating metabolites, cellular uptake, intracellular metabolism with possible deconjugation, biological properties of the conjugated metabolites, and specific accumulation in some target tissues are discussed. Finally, bioavailability appears to differ greatly between the various polyphenols, and the most abundant polyphenols in our diet are not necessarily those that have the best bioavailability profile. A thorough knowledge of the bioavailability of the hundreds of dietary polyphenols will help us to identify those that are most likely to exert protective health effects.

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