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.
Photo by Zoe Schaeffer on Unsplash
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.
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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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