Critical to a food's 'nutritional' value is whether the 'nutrient' or compound is provided in a bioavailable form from the food. Flavonoids therefore may have to be absorbed from the large intestine if they are to exert a potential health effect. Early data from animal studies suggested that flavonoids were only absorbed to a limited degree because gut microflora preferentially destroyed the heterocyclic rings of the compounds before absorption occurred in the small intestine. However, an increasing number of studies suggest that the bioavailability of flavonoids is greater than was previously recognized, although increases in the concentrations of flavonoids and its associated metabolites in plasma and urine do not necessarily mean that they have significant effects in vivo. There are few data on their intracel-lular location and mechanism of action. Thus, a key area for future research will be to clarify the absorption, bioavailability, and metabolism of a range of flavonoid compounds.
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