Food preservatives have shown a tendency to cause allergic reactions and have proved to be less than ideal for our health. Researchers from Pennsylvania State University have found a natural antioxidant in grain bran which has shown potential to be used for food preservation in the coming years. Grain bran is the hard cover of grain.
Antioxidants are compounds responsible for slowing down the degradation rate of omega-3 fatty acids. Omega-3 fatty acids with lots of health benefits, for many years is being added to healthy foods. Antioxidants preserve the health benefits of these acids by slowing down their decay. A class of antioxidants called alkylresorcinols (AR) were studied by the Penn’s researchers which are naturally occurring compounds present in whole grains like rye, wheat and barley to prevent bacteria, mold and other organisms from growing on the grain kernels.
Food has very limited shelf life, which makes food preservatives an inevitable necessity for preserving foods for delayed consumption. Common food preservatives like nitrates and sulfites have shown numerous side effects including headache, nausea, allergies and palpitations. Some preservatives have been classified as probable cancer causing agents. Food industry have even fantasized using nuclear radiation for preserving food. The industry’s struggle to find natural antioxidants for preserving food in place of synthetic ones may be coming to an end with ARs.
ARs if used in preservation will make them ideal natural preservatives as they have many health benefits including helping to protect against cancer. Also ARs which come from bran layer of cereal grain, are very cost effective as gray bran is only used as animal fodder. Its use could be extended further by recycling.
Researchers extracted ARs from rye bran and used it in testing emulsion. As many people use oils as emulsions. Researchers found that the AR’s did work as antioxidants in preserving omega-3 fatty acids. The AR’s action was compared to two traditional antioxidants one natural and the other synthetic, namely Vitamin E and butylated hydroxytoluene respectively.
The research unfortunately showed that the AR’s did not prove to be as good as either the natural or synthetic antioxidants. They think the reason for the poor performance of AR may be that the ARs were not pure enough which may have reduced its activity. Now the researchers are testing the activity of ARs from different sources with different molecular structures. They are looking for a specific type of AR which will prove more effective than the conventional synthetic antioxidants.