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J Clin Gastroenterol. 2012 Oct;46 Suppl:S95-9. doi: 10.1097/MCG.0b013e318264e82b.

Colonic metabolism of polyphenols from coffee, green tea, and hazelnut skins.

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  • 1The φ2 Laboratory of Phytochemicals in Physiology, Human Nutrition Unit, Department of Public Health, Parma, Italy.


Dietary polyphenolic compounds are poorly absorbed in the small intestine. The absorbed fraction follows the common metabolic pathway of drugs, undergoing phase II enzymatic detoxification with the conjugation of glucuronic acid, sulfate, and methyl groups. However, the unabsorbed fraction can reach the colon, becoming available for the wide array of enzymes produced by the local commensal microbiota. Gut bacteria can hydrolyze glycosides, glucuronides, sulfates, amides, esters, and lactones and are able to break down the polyphenolic skeleton and perform reactions of reduction, decarboxylation, demethylation, and dehydroxylation. These complex modifications generate several low-molecular-weight metabolites that can be efficiently absorbed in situ, subsequently undergoing further phase II metabolism, locally and/or at the liver level, before entering the systemic blood circulation and finally being excreted in urine in substantial quantities that exceed the excretion of phenolic metabolites formed in the upper gastrointestinal tract. This brief work focuses on the phenolic composition and colonic microbial transformation of 2 of the most polyphenol-rich dietary sources, namely, green tea and coffee, and a new interesting and innovative ingredient, hazelnut skin, recently evaluated as one of the richest edible sources of polyphenolic compounds.

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