We have examined the gut bacterial metabolism of pomegranate by-product (POMx) and major pomegranate polyphenols, punicalagins, using pH-controlled, stirred, batch culture fermentation systems reflective of the distal region of the human large intestine. Incubation of POMx or punicalagins with faecal bacteria resulted in formation of the dibenzopyranone-type urolithins. The time course profile confirmed the tetrahydroxylated urolithin D as the first product of microbial transformation, followed by compounds with decreasing number of phenolic hydroxy groups: the trihydroxy analogue urolithin C and dihydroxylated urolithin A. POMx exposure enhanced the growth of total bacteria, Bifidobacterium spp. and Lactobacillus spp., without influencing the Clostridium coccoides-Eubacterium rectale group and the C. histolyticum group. In addition, POMx increased concentrations of short chain fatty acids (SCFA) viz. acetate, propionate and butyrate in the fermentation medium. Punicalagins did not affect the growth of bacteria or production of SCFA. The results suggest that POMx oligomers, composed of gallic acid, ellagic acid and glucose units, may account for the enhanced growth of probiotic bacteria.
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