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Polyphenolic compounds have a variety of functions in plants including protecting them from a range of abiotic and biotic stresses such as pathogenic infections, ionising radiation and as signalling molecules. They are common constituents of human and animal diets, undergoing extensive metabolism by gut microbiota in many cases prior to entering circulation. They are linked to a range of positive health effects, including anti-oxidant, anti-inflammatory, antibiotic and disease-specific activities but the relationships between polyphenol bio-transformation products and their interactions in vivo are less well understood. Here we review the state of knowledge in this area, specifically what happens to dietary polyphenols after ingestion and how this is linked to health effects in humans and animals; paying particular attention to farm animals and pigs. We focus on the chemical transformation of polyphenols after ingestion, through microbial transformation, conjugation, absorption, entry into circulation and uptake by cells and tissues, focusing on recent findings in relation to bone. We review what is known about how these processes affect polyphenol bioactivity, highlighting gaps in knowledge. The implications of extending the use of polyphenols to treat specific pathogenic infections and other illnesses is explored.

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