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J Nutr. 2005 May;135(5):1056-62.

Dietary sesamin is converted to enterolactone in humans.

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Institute for Preventive Medicine, Nutrition, and Cancer, Folkhälsan Research Center, and Division of Clinical Chemistry, University of Helsinki, Helsinki, Finland.


Sesamin, a major sesame seed lignan, has many biological actions. The specific mechanisms for most of these actions as well as the full metabolic pathway of sesamin in humans are unclear. Two experiments were carried out to determine whether postprandial plasma enterolactone is related to sesamin concentration in sesame seeds and whether enterolactone is the major product of the in vitro fermentation of sesamin. Four subjects (3 women, 1 man) were given a single dose of sesame seeds after they consumed a low-lignan diet for 1 wk. Blood was collected at baseline and at time intervals after intake and plasma was analyzed for plant and mammalian lignan concentrations. Additionally, pure sesamin standard was incubated in vitro with human fecal inoculum to mimic the fermentation process in human gut. We calculated individual pharmacokinetic variables and found high interindividual variation in the plasma plant lignan concentrations. The mammalian lignan appearance rate in plasma shows that sesamin is a major precursor of enterolactone in vivo. In the in vitro experiment, enterolactone was the major metabolite and 3 intermediates were identified, allowing the elucidation of sesamin metabolism in humans. Enterolactone was the major metabolite of sesamin both in vivo and in vitro. The abundance of sesamin in sesame seeds indicates that they are a major food source of enterolactone precursors.

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