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Microbiology
Vol.
156, No. xx, 2010; Pages: 3224 - 3231

Novel approaches for analysing gut microbes and dietary polyphenols: challenges and opportunities

R. A. Kemperman, S. Bolca, L. C. Roger and E. E. Vaughan

Unilever R & D, Olivier van Noortlaan 120, 3133 AT Vlaardingen, The Netherlands.

Abstract

Polyphenols, ubiquitously present in the food we consume, may modify the gut microbial composition and/or activity, and moreover, may be converted by the colonic microbiota to bioactive compounds that influence host health. The polyphenol content of fruit and vegetables and derived products is implicated in some of the health benefits bestowed on eating fruit and vegetables. Elucidating the mechanisms behind polyphenol metabolism is an important step in understanding their health effects. Yet, this is no trivial assignment due to the diversity encountered in both polyphenols and the gut microbial composition, which is further confounded by the interactions with the host. Only a limited number of studies have investigated the impact of dietary polyphenols on the complex human gut microbiota and these were mainly focused on single polyphenol molecules and selected bacterial populations. Our knowledge of gut microbial genes and pathways for polyphenol bioconversion and interactions is poor. Application of specific in vitro or in vivo models mimicking the human gut environment is required to analyse these diverse interactions. A particular benefit can now be gained from next-generation analytical tools such as metagenomics and metatranscriptomics allowing a wider, more holistic approach to the analysis of polyphenol metabolism. Understanding the polyphenol–gut microbiota interactions and gut microbial bioconversion capacity will facilitate studies on bioavailability of polyphenols in the host, provide more insight into the health effects of polyphenols and potentially open avenues for modulation of polyphenol bioactivity for host health.

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