Fruit even healthier than previously thought

Posted by Daniel Palmer on 28th August 2009

An international team of scientists has found that the polyphenol content of fruits has been underestimated, making fruit a healthier option than previously believed.

Polyphenol content in fruits usually refers to extractable polyphenols, but a Spanish scientist working at the Institute of Food Research in Norwich analysed apple, peach and nectarine, finding that nonextractable polyphenol content is up to five times higher than extractable compounds.

“These polyphenols need to be treated with acid to extract them from the cell walls of fruit in the lab,” said Sara Arranz from the Spanish Council for Scientific Research (CSIC) in Madrid. “If non-extractable polyphenols are not considered, the levels of beneficial polyphenols such as proanthocyanidins, ellagic acid and catechin are substantially underestimated.”

Dr Paul Kroon from IFR explained that polyphenols have an impact on the health of humans with regard to their link to antioxidant activity.

“In the human body these compounds will be fermented by bacteria in the colon, creating metabolites that may be beneficial, for example with antioxidant activity,” he advised.

The Spanish research group, led by Professor Fulgencio Saura-Calixto, has been working to show that nonextractable polyphenols, which mostly escape analysis and are not usually considered in nutritional studies, are a major part of bioactive compounds in the diet.

“These polyphenols are major constituents of the human diet with important health properties. To consider them in nutritional and epidemiological research may be useful for a better understanding of the effects of plant foods in health,” Professor Saura-Calixto concluded.

The study has been published in the Journal of Agricultural and Food Chemistry.