The role of colonic flora in the health benefits of dietary flavanols

Lead Research Organisation: University of East Anglia
Department Name: Graduate Office


This project seeks to understand how consumption of flavanol-rich foods such as dark chocolate, tea, apples and red wine causes beneficial changes in markers of cardiovascular health. Specifically, the project will assess the role of gut microflora-derived metabolites of dietary flavanols called y-valerolactones which are major products of flavanols that accumulate in human plasma after a flavanol-rich meal. Currently, nothing is known of the biological activities of human valerolactone metabolites and the role of y-valerolactones in delivering the health benefits reported for flavanol consumption. The student will directly test the ability of y-valerolactones and their human phase-2 conjugates (that are uniquely available at IFR) to alter biomarkers of vascular endothelial function and inflammation in vitro using cultured human endothelial and smooth muscle cells. In addition, the specific effects of y-valerolactones on progression of atherosclerosis will be assessed in vivo by directly feeding y-valerolactones, and compared to the effects of feeding the precursor flavanols or a control diet.


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Studentship Projects

Project Reference Relationship Related To Start End Student Name
BB/M011216/1 01/10/2015 30/09/2023
1786321 Studentship BB/M011216/1 01/10/2016 30/09/2020 Jenna Helleur
Description I work on a food metabolite that is broken down by our gut microbiota for which there is no published literature on. We are aware of the bioavailability of the compound and how it will circulate the plasma for up to 72 hours post consumption of the initial food source (such as green tea, cocoa, and red fruits and vegetables). I have performed a dietary intervention study on mice using these compounds and the raw compound precursor to assess whether it can mitigate insulin resistance (type 2 diabetes). I have only initial findings so far as the mice study has only recently completed. However, it looks as though the metabolite could be majorly responsible for the effects seen by its precursor in preventing type 2 diabetes. This research is completely novel and providing data that could impact society in terms of extracting a food source and using as a supplement/dietary advice in preventing disease.

I have sent off liver samples for transcriptomic analysis, upon return I shall assess if the diets are altering specific genetic pathways involved in type 2 diabetes and how exactly the compounds can prevent disease.
Exploitation Route Use for food manufacturers and further research to assess how the compounds could perform as a supplement or added into food source.
Sectors Agriculture, Food and Drink,Chemicals,Healthcare,Retail

Description Presentation at the Norwich Science Festival to members of the public 
Form Of Engagement Activity A talk or presentation
Part Of Official Scheme? No
Geographic Reach Regional
Primary Audience Public/other audiences
Results and Impact Around 80 people attended a presentation that I gave titled 'The food benefits of cocoa, green tea and broccoli' as part of Norfolk's annual Norwich Science Festival. The idea is to present to the public about science and research in a manner they can comprehend and understand. As I work in food research it was a way to present background information on certain foods and how my research can benefit society. Following the presentation, the public who attended were fascinated as to how natural foods can really benefit health and understood more about what types of research goes on in the Norwich Research Park.
Year(s) Of Engagement Activity 2018