Flavanol monomer-induced changes to the human faecal microflora

Xenofon Tzounis, Jelena Vulevic, Gunter G C Kuhnle, Trevor George, Jadwiga Leonczak, Glenn R. Gibson, Catherine Kwik-Uribe, Jeremy P E Spencer

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298 Citations (Scopus)


We have investigated the bacterial-dependent metabolism of (-)-epicatechin and (+)-catechin using a pH-controlled, stirred, batch-culture fermentation system reflective of the distal region of the human large intestine. Incubation of (-)-epicatechin or (+)-catechin (150 mg/l or 1000 mg/l) with faecal bacteria, led to the generation of 5-(3′,4′-dihydroxyphenyl)-γ-valerolactone, 5-phenyl-γ-valerolactone and phenylpropionic acid. However, the formation of these metabolites from (+)-catechin required its initial conversion to (+)-epicatechin. The metabolism of both flavanols occurred in the presence of favourable carbon sources, notably sucrose and the prebiotic fructo-oligosaccharides, indicating that bacterial utilisation of flavanols also occurs when preferential energy sources are available. (+)-Catechin incubation affected the growth of select microflora, resulting in a statistically significant increase in the growth of the Clostridium coccoides - Eubacterium rectale group, Bifidobacterium spp. and Escherichia coli, as well as a significant inhibitory effect on the growth of the C. histolyticum group. In contrast, the effect of (-)-epicatechin was less profound, only significantly increasing the growth of the C. coccoides - Eubacterium rectale group. These potential prebiotic effects for both (+)-catechin and (-)-epicatechin were most notable at the lower concentration of 150 mg/l. As both (-)-epicatechin and (+)-catechin were converted to the same metabolites, the more dramatic change in the growth of distinct microfloral populations produced by (+)-catechin incubation may be linked to the bacterial conversion of (+)-catechin to (+)-epicatechin. Together these data suggest that the consumption of flavanol-rich foods may support gut health through their ability to exert prebiotic actions.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)782-792
Number of pages11
JournalBritish Journal of Nutrition
Issue number4
Publication statusPublished - 1 Apr 2008
Externally publishedYes


  • Faecal microflora
  • Flavanols
  • Large intestine
  • Prebiotics


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