Flavonols are polyphenols found ubiquitously in plants and plant-products. Flavonols, particularly quercetin, are potent antioxidants in vitro and their intake has been associated inversely with the incidence of coronary heart disease. The aim of this study was to investigate the accumulation in plasma and excretion in urine of flavonol glucosides following ingestion of lightly fried onions. Five healthy volunteers followed a low-flavonoid diet for 3 days. On day 4, after an overnight fast, subjects were given 300 g of lightly fried yellow onions which contain conjugates of quercetin and isorhamnetin, including quercetin-3,4 '-diO-beta-glucoside, isorhamnetin-4'-O-beta-glucoside and quercetin-4'-O-beta-glucoside. Blood collection was carried out at 0 min, 0.5, 1.0, 1.5, 2, 3, 4, 5 and 24h after the supplement. In addition, subjects collected all their urine for 24h following the onion supplement. Isorhamnetin-4'-O-beta-glucoside and quercetin-4 '-O-beta-glucoside accumulated in plasma with maximum levels, defined as proportion of intake, of 10.7+/-2.6% and 0.13+/-0.03% respectively. The time of the quercetin-4'glucoside peak plasma concentration was 1.3+/-0.2 h after the ingestion of onions while a value of 1.8+/-0.7 h was obtained for isorhamnetin-4'-glucoside. Excretion in urine, as a proportion of intake, was 17.4+/-8.3% for isorhamnetin-4'-O-beta-glucoside and 0.2+/-0.1% for quercetin-4'-O-beta-glucoside. Possible reasons for the accumulation and excretion of isorhamnetin-4'-glucoside in proportionally much higher amounts than quercetin-4'-glucoside are discussed. It is concluded that flavonols are absorbed into the bloodstream as glucosides and minor structural differences affect markedly both the level of accumulation and the extent to which the conjugates are excreted.
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