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      Insights into the metabolism and microbial biotransformation of dietary flavan-3-ols and the bioactivity of their metabolites.

      Food & function
      Biotransformation, physiology, Flavonoids, chemistry, metabolism, Humans, Intestinal Absorption, Intestines, microbiology, Metagenome, Proanthocyanidins, Xenobiotics

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          Flavan-3-ols, occurring in monomeric, as well as in oligomeric and polymeric forms (also known as condensed tannins or proanthocyanidins), are among the most abundant and bioactive dietary polyphenols, but their in vivo health effects in humans may be limited because of their recognition as xenobiotics. Bioavailability of flavan-3-ols is largely influenced by their degree of polymerization; while monomers are readily absorbed in the small intestine, oligomers and polymers need to be biotransformed by the colonic microbiota before absorption. Therefore, phenolic metabolites, rather than the original high molecular weight compounds found in foods, may be responsible for the health effects derived from flavan-3-ol consumption. Flavan-3-ol phenolic metabolites differ in structure, amount and excretion site. Phase II or tissular metabolites derived from the small intestine and hepatic metabolism are presented as conjugated derivatives (glucuronic acid or sulfate esters, methyl ether, or their combined forms) of monomeric flavan-3-ols and are preferentially eliminated in the bile, whereas microbial metabolites are rather simple conjugated lactones and phenolic acids that are largely excreted in urine. Although the colon is seen as an important organ for the metabolism of flavan-3-ols, the microbial catabolic pathways of these compounds are still under consideration, partly due to the lack of identification of bacteria with such capacity. Studies performed with synthesized or isolated phase II conjugated metabolites have revealed that they could have an effect beyond their antioxidant properties, by interacting with signalling pathways implicated in important processes involved in the development of diseases, among other bioactivities. However, the biological properties of microbe-derived metabolites in their actual conjugated forms remain largely unknown. Currently, there is an increasing interest in their effects on intestinal infections, inflammatory intestinal diseases and overall gut health. The present review will give an insight into the metabolism and microbial biotransformation of flavan-3-ols, including tentative catabolic pathways and aspects related to the identification of bacteria with the ability to catabolize these kinds of polyphenols. Also, the in vitro bioactivities of phase II and microbial phenolic metabolites will be covered in detail.

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