Factors modulating bioavailability of quercetin-related flavonoids and the consequences of their vascular function

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Nowadays dietary flavonoids attract much attention in the prevention of chronic diseases. Epidemiological and intervention studies strongly suggest that flavonoid intake has beneficial effects on vascular health. It is unlikely that flavonoids act as direct antioxidants, although oxidative stress profoundly contributes to vascular impairment leading to cardiovascular diseases. Instead, flavonoids may exert their function by tuning the cellular redox state to an adaptive response or tolerable stress. However, the optimum intake of flavonoids from supplements or diet has not been clarified yet, because a number of exogenous and endogenous factors modulating their bioavailability affect their vascular function. This review will focus on the current knowledge of the bioavailability and vascular function of quercetin as a representative of antioxidative flavonoids. Current intervention studies imply that intake of quercetin-rich onion improves vascular health. Onion may be superior to quercetin supplement from the viewpoint of quercetin bioavailability, probably because the food matrix enhances the intestinal absorption of quercetin. α-Glucosylation increases its bioavailability by elevating the accessibility to the absorptive cells. Prenylation may enhance bioaccumulation at the target site by increasing the cellular uptake. However, these chemical modifications do not guarantee health benefits to the vascular system. Dietary quercetin is exclusively present as their conjugated form in the blood stream. Quercetin may exert its vascular function as an aglycone within macrophage cells after inflammation-induced deconjugation and as conjugated metabolites by targeting endothelial cells. The relationship between the bioavailability and bio-efficacy should be clarified, to evaluate the vascular function of a wide variety of dietary flavonoids.

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