Fucaceae is the most dominant algae family along the intertidal areas of the Northern Hemisphere shorelines, being part of human customs for centuries with applications as a food source either for humans or animals, in agriculture and as remedies in folk medicine. These macroalgae are endowed with several phytochemicals of great industrial interest from which phlorotannins, a class of marine-exclusive polyphenols, have gathered much attention during the last few years due to their numerous possible therapeutic properties. These compounds are very abundant in brown seaweeds such as Fucaceae and have been demonstrated to possess numerous health-promoting properties, including antioxidant effects through scavenging of reactive oxygen species (ROS) or enhancement of intracellular antioxidant defenses, antidiabetic properties through their acarbose-like activity, stimulation of adipocytes glucose uptake and protection of β-pancreatic cells against high-glucose oxidative stress; anti-inflammatory effects through inhibition of several pro-inflammatory mediators; antitumor properties by activation of apoptosis on cancerous cells and metastasis inhibition, among others. These multiple health properties render phlorotannins great potential for application in numerous therapeutical approaches. This review addresses the major contribution of phlototannins for the biological effects that have been described for seaweeds from Fucaceae. In addition, the bioavailability of this group of phenolic compounds is discussed.
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