British Journal of Nutrition

Review Article

Biomarkers of the intake of dietary polyphenols: strengths, limitations and application in nutrition research

Jeremy P. E. Spencera1 c1, Manal M. Abd El Mohsena1, Ann-Marie Minihanea1 and John C. Mathersa2

a1 School of Chemistry, Food and Pharmacy, University of Reading, Whiteknights, Reading RG6 6AP, UK

a2 Human Nutrition Research Centre, School of Clinical Medical Sciences, Newcastle University, Framlington Place, Newcastle NE2 4HH, UK


In order to establish firm evidence for the health effects of dietary polyphenol consumption, it is essential to have quantitative information regarding their dietary intake. The usefulness of the current methods, which rely mainly on the assessment of polyphenol intake using food records and food composition tables, is limited as they fail to assess total intake accurately. This review highlights the problems associated with such methods with regard to polyphenol-intake predictions. We suggest that the development of biological biomarkers, measured in both blood and urine, are essential for making accurate estimates of polyphenol intake. However, the relationship between dietary intakes and nutritional biomarkers are often highly complex. This review identifies the criteria that must be considered in the development of such biomarkers. In addition, we provide an assessment of the limited number of potential biomarkers of polyphenol intake currently available.

(Received March 30 2007)

(Revised June 04 2007)

(Accepted June 08 2007)


c1 Corresponding author: Dr Jeremy Spencer, fax: +44 (0) 118 931 0080, email


Abbreviations: Tmax, time to maximum concentration