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Evid Based Complement Alternat Med. 2013;2013:270418. doi: 10.1155/2013/270418. Epub 2013 May 28.

Biological significance of urolithins, the gut microbial ellagic Acid-derived metabolites: the evidence so far.

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1
Research Group on Quality, Safety and Bioactivity of Plant Foods, Department of Food Science and Technology, CEBAS-CSIC, Campus de Espinardo, P.O. Box 164, 30100 Murcia, Spain.

Abstract

The health benefits attributed to pomegranate have been associated with its high content in polyphenols, particularly ellagitannins. This is also the case for other ellagitannin-containing fruits and nuts including strawberry, raspberry, blackberry, walnuts, and muscadine grapes. The bioavailability of ellagitannins and ellagic acid is however very low. These molecules suffer extensive metabolism by the gut microbiota to produce urolithins that are much better absorbed. Urolithins circulate in plasma as glucuronide and sulfate conjugates at concentrations in the range of 0.2-20  μ M. It is therefore conceivable that the health effects of ellagitannin-containing products can be associated with these gut-produced urolithins, and thus the evaluation of the biological effects of these metabolites is essential. Recent research, mostly based on in vitro testing, has shown preliminary evidence of the anti-inflammatory, anticarcinogenic, antiglycative, antioxidant, and antimicrobial effects of urolithins, supporting their potential contribution to the health effects attributed to pomegranate and ellagitannin-rich foods. The number of in vivo studies is still limited, but they show preventive effects of urolithins on gut and systemic inflammation that encourage further research. Both in vivo and mechanistic studies are necessary to clarify the health effects of these metabolites. Attention should be paid when designing these mechanistic studies in order to use the physiologically relevant metabolites (urolithins in gut models and their conjugated derivatives in systemic models) at concentrations that can be reached in vivo.

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