Quercetin, a polyphenol with potential health effects, is absorbed by humans and measurement in plasma can be used as a biomarker for intake. However, the chemical nature of the quercetin in blood is still not known, although one possibility is that glucosides are found in an unchanged form from the original food. We propose that the existence of quercetin glucosides in plasma is unlikely, since the metabolic β-glucosidase capacity of the small intestine and of the liver is too great for quercetin glucosides to escape deglycosylation. We critically examine the limited number of studies which purport to detect quercetin glycosides in blood and the current evidence for the absorption of these compounds from the gastrointestinal tract. We emphasise the need for comprehensive identification of circulating compounds, since polyphenol glucuronides, the expected metabolites in plasma, have almost identical chromatographic properties to the glucosides at acid pH. Studies on the nature of quercetin metabolites in plasma are urgently needed so that the proposed biological activities of quercetin can be re-assessed and that a suitable biomarker of exposure can be established.
- Human metabolism
- Quercetin glucoside