Reference Work Entry

Natural Products

pp 2433-2463


Phenolics in Human Nutrition: Importance of the Intestinal Microbiome for Isoflavone and Lignan Bioavailability

  • Thomas ClavelAffiliated withBiofunctionality Unit – Junior Research Group Intestinal Microbiome, ZIEL – Research Center for Nutrition and Food Sciences, TU München Email author 
  • , Job O. MapesaAffiliated withBiofunctionality Unit, ZIEL – Research Center for Nutrition and Food Sciences, TU MünchenDepartment of Dairy and Food Science and Technology, Egerton UniversityAgri-Food and Nutrition Innovations


Depending on nutritional habits, our diet may contain a substantial load of phenolics, defined as plant secondary metabolites consisting of one to several phenol groups. Their bioavailability, in other words the active fraction of ingested amounts that reaches targeted cell types or tissues where biochemical properties can act, is markedly influenced by metabolism and absorption in the gastrointestinal tract. Indeed, our intestine is the primary metabolically active site of absorption of exogenous factors in our body and harbors trillions of microbial cells with a vast metabolic potential, referred to as the intestinal microbiota. The aim of the present book chapter is to give insights into the role of phenolic compounds in human health. We will focus our attention on two families of polyphenols of importance in human nutrition, namely, the isoflavones and lignans, and will discuss in detail the role of intestinal microorganisms in regulating their metabolism and thereby health effects.


Bioavailability enterolignans equol health human nutrition intestinal microbiota isoflavones lignans microbiome phenolics phytoestrogens