Because of their health-promoting properties, flavonoids are used in feed supplements for ruminants, although scientific evidence for their efficacy in vivo is limited. It has been shown recently that bioavailability of quercetin is low after ruminal administration in cows because of degradation by the ruminal microbiota. It is unknown whether quercetin could be absorbed from the small intestine in ruminants if degradation is prevented; therefore, we investigated the bioavailability of quercetin after duodenal administration in 6 German Holstein cows. On 88 ± 3 d in milk, each cow received equivalent doses of quercetin [9, 18, or 27 mg of quercetin equivalents (QE)/kg of body weight] either as quercetin aglycone (QA) or as its glucorhamnoside rutin (RU). In addition, 2 control studies with duodenal administration of NaCl solution (0.9%) were conducted per cow to examine concentrations of flavonoids in plasma during regular feeding. Blood samples were collected at defined time intervals over a period of 24h before and after administration of the test compounds. A washout period of 2d was applied between the runs to avoid possible carryover effects. Concentrations of plasma quercetin aglycone and its metabolites isorhamnetin, tamarixetin, and kaempferol were measured after treatment with glucuronidase/sulfatase by HPLC with fluorescence detection. After administration of RU, levels of plasma quercetin did not increase above baseline, irrespective of dose administered. After duodenal administration of QA, the plasma concentration of QA and its methylated metabolites clearly increased above baseline. The maximal plasma concentrations of total flavonols (about 2h after application) increased in a dose-dependent manner but showed high interindividual variability (range 368.8 to 983.3 nmol/L at 27 mg of QE/kg of body weight) but peak time did not differ. Preadministration baseline values of total flavonols were reached again 3 to 4h after QA administration. The bioavailability of quercetin and its metabolites, as measured by the area under the concentration-time curve, was affected by the quercetin source applied, whereby quercetin from RU was unavailable. Taken together, duodenal administration enhanced bioavailability of QA almost to values previously reported in pigs after oral administration of QA. In contrast to findings in monogastrics or after oral administration in cows, quercetin from RU seems to be unavailable when administered duodenally.
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