What is it about?

Flavonoids are metabolites that give fruits and vegetables their rich colors and their consumption confers several health benefits. We used animal models to investigate the role of berry flavonoids in reducing weight gain and obesity. We discovered that specific gut microbes transformed the flavonoids from the diet into monophenolic acids. When we provided the monophenolic acid 4-hydroxyphenylacetic acid (4-HPAA) to obese mice, we saw that this metabolite was sufficient to reverse fatty liver disease and improve metabolism.

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Why is it important?

Flavonoids have received a great deal of attention because of their health benefits. The nutrition research field has been struggling to understand how flavonoids function in the body because they are only taken up in the blood stream in very low levels. Previous studies have linked the consumption of flavonoids to changes in the composition of the gut microbiota. This means that eating certain plant-based foods can determine what types of bacteria can thrive in your intestines. We are the first to directly show that it does not just matter what microbes are present, but more importantly what they are doing to the flavonoids. Specialized gut bacteria can break down the flavonoids from your diet into smaller compounds which do reach the bloodstream and are capable of conferring specific health benefits. Our research will cause a shift in the focus of the flavonoid field, encouraging investigations focused on gut microbial metabolites in addition to the flavonoids themselves.


We'd like to thank everyone involved in helping out with the research in our article. It was a true team effort and great learning experience. We were very excited when we first saw the data on the administration of the flavonoid metabolite and we hope that our research will excite and inspire people to eat and live healthy. We'd love to hear from you if you like our work and want to talk about the role of diet and the gut microbiota in health and disease.

Jan Claesen
Cleveland Clinic

Read the Original

This page is a summary of: A gut microbial metabolite of dietary polyphenols reverses obesity-driven hepatic steatosis, Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences, November 2022, Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences,
DOI: 10.1073/pnas.2202934119.
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