The role of metabolism (and the microbiome) in defining the clinical efficacy of dietary flavonoids.

Research paper by Aedín A Cassidy, Anne-Marie AM Minihane

Indexed on: 25 Nov '16Published on: 25 Nov '16Published in: The American journal of clinical nutrition


At a population level, there is growing evidence of the beneficial effects of dietary flavonoids on health. However, there is extensive heterogeneity in the response to increased intake, which is likely mediated via wide interindividual variability in flavonoid absorption and metabolism. Flavonoids are extensively metabolized by phase I and phase II metabolism (which occur predominantly in the gastrointestinal tract and liver) and colonic microbial metabolism. A number of factors, including age, sex, and genotype, may affect these metabolic processes. In addition, food composition and flavonoid source are likely to affect bioavailability, and emerging data suggest a critical role for the microbiome. This review will focus on the current knowledge for the main subclasses of flavonoids, including anthocyanins, flavonols, flavan-3-ols, and flavanones, for which there is growing evidence from prospective studies of beneficial effects on health. The identification of key factors that govern metabolism and an understanding of how the differential capacity to metabolize these bioactive compounds affect health outcomes will help establish how to optimize intakes of flavonoids for health benefits and in specific subgroups. We identify research areas that need to be addressed to further understand important determinants of flavonoid bioavailability and metabolism and to advance the knowledge base that is required to move toward the development of dietary guidelines and recommendations for flavonoids and flavonoid-rich foods.