Sapogenol is a major microbial metabolite in human plasma associated with high protein soy-based diets: the relevance for functional food formulations

Madalina Neacsu* (Corresponding Author), Vassilios Raikos, Yara Benavidez-Paz, Sylvia H Duncan, Gary J Duncan, James Christie, Alexandra M Johnstone, Wendy R Russell

*Corresponding author for this work

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

12 Citations (Scopus)
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Legumes are a source of health-promoting macro- and micronutrients, but also contain numerous phytochemicals with useful biological activities, an example of which are the saponins. Epidemiological studies suggest that saponins may play a role in protection from cancer and benefit human health by lowering cholesterol. Therefore, they could represent good candidates for specialized functional foods. Following the consumption of a soya-rich high-protein weight-loss diet (SOYA HP WL), the concentrations of Soyasaponin I (SSI) and soyasapogenol B (SSB) were determined in faecal samples from human volunteers (n=10) and found to be between 1.4 and 17.5 mg per 100 g fresh faecal sample. SSB was the major metabolite identified in volunteers’ plasma (n=10) after consumption of the soya test meal (SOYA MEAL); the postprandial (3 hr after meal) plasma concentration for SBB varied between 48.5 ng/mL to 103.2 ng/mL. The metabolism of SSI by the gut microbiota (in vitro) was also confirmed. This study shows that the main systemic metabolites of soyasaponin are absorbed from the gut and that they are bioavailable in plasma predominantly as conjugates of sapogenol. Metabolism and bioavailability of biologically active molecules represents key information necessary for efficient development of functional foods.
Original languageEnglish
Article number422
Issue number4
Publication statusPublished - 3 Apr 2020

Bibliographical note

Funding: This work was supported by The Scottish Government's Rural and Environment Science and Analytical Services Division (RESAS).
Acknowledgments: The authors are grateful to the ALPRO™ Foundation for supporting this work.

Author Contributions: Conceptualization, A.M.J. and W.R.R.; methodology, M.N., Y.B., S.H.D., G.J.D., J.S.C.; data curation, M.N.; V.R.; writing—original draft preparation, M.N.; writing—review and editing, M.N.; V.R., W.R.R. All authors have read and agreed to the published version of the manuscript.


  • soybean
  • saponin
  • sapogenol
  • gut metabolism
  • bioavailability
  • human study
  • functional food
  • Sapogenol
  • Bioavailability
  • Soybean
  • Gut metabolism
  • Saponin
  • Human study
  • Functional food


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