N° 94 | November 2014

Total antioxidant capacity of blood plasma depends on fruits and vegetables intake

Increased consumption of fruits and vegetables is considered as closely related to protection of human health and wellbeing. A huge number of health problems as diabetes, cancer and neurodegenerative or cardiovascular diseases have been connected with not only specific nutrition habits but also lack of many essential nutrients in consumed food as well. Human system benefi ts from fruit and vegetables, the intake of which is also related with anti-nutrients such as the consumption of low-molecular antioxidant substances. Antioxidant compounds provided with the diet improve total antioxidant capacity of human blood and tissues. Provided in the diet, antioxidants neutralize reactive oxygen species (ROS, which are produced in the system during physiological processes).

Total antioxidant status

The most popular description in scientifi c literature related to antioxidant activity is total antioxidant activity (TAC) which determines the ability of substance, materials, food to neutralize oxygen-free radical specific form, irrespectively to specific antioxidant activity of present antioxidants1. Many methods have been developed to measure TAC of different samples. The last one with direct transferrable results for human health is the oxygen radical absorbance capacity (ORAC) technique, which is also an effective method for measuring TAC of human blood plasma2.

Antioxidant potential of different fruits and vegetables

Analysis of the fresh weight of the edible part of the fruit led to the conclusion that strawberries have a higher TAC than fruits such as plums, oranges, kiwi, grapefruit, red and white grapes, bananas, apples, pears, and melons (listed in order of decreasing antioxidant capacity). It also has been shown that TAC value of dry mass of strawberry fruit is higher compared with the dry weight of fruits just mentioned1,3,4. TAC analysis of edible vegetable fresh mass provided observation that vegetables such as kale, spinach, Brussels sprouts, alfalfa, and broccoli have a signifi cantly higher antioxidant capacity than other species such as beets, red pepper, onion, corn, or lettuce3,5,6.

Effect of consumption of selected fruit species on total plasma antioxidant capacity

Research suggests that the possibility of human plasma antioxidant defences can be intensively increased in response to the consumption of certain types of fruits. It was observed that eating bilberry (Vaccinium myrtillus L.) fruit results in signifi cant increases of TAC in blood plasma. This increase occurs after consumption of larger portions of fruits of at least 200g. It was observed that this effect was a result of activity of both hydrophilic and lipophilic antioxidants present in fruit7. It is believed that a signifi cant effect of blueberry consumption compared with red grapes fruit on plasma TAC increase may be due to the higher concentration of anthocyanin in these fruits. Red grapes are characterized by the presence of large amounts of resveratrol, a stilbene polyphenol derivative, a compound that blueberries do not contain, and which in the opinion of experts, shows a much weaker free-radical scavenging properties of oxygen than anthocyanins. Research on the effects of blueberry on organisms has shown that to effectively prevent decline of TAC in the plasma of human blood, this fruit should be eaten in larger doses of 100 to 200g8. It also was shown that consumption of sweet Bing cherries has a clear effect on plasma TAC. Eating cherries contributes to a signifi cant increase in TAC due mainly to lipophilic antioxidant activity (ORACL) in plasma. A similar correlation was not observed for hydrophilic antioxidants, which had no effect on total plasma antioxidant status after eating larger portions of fruit (280g). Sweet cherries are fruits, which are characterized by a large amount of hydroxycinnamic acid and its derivatives, which account for about 42% of total content of phenolic compounds (the amount is estimated to be 163mg/100g wet weight)9. A second important group of phenolic compounds having an effect on a high TAC of sweet cherry is the anthocyanins and proanthocyanidins, which represent 23% of the total phenolic compounds in fruit9,10.

Changes in antioxidant activity of fruits and vegetables during cooking and technology

Both traditional food-processing technologies (e.g. drying, and methods such as microwave cooking) and extent of shelf life also contribute to signifi cant changes in food TAC11. The results of research indicate that effect of different food processing methods on the antioxidant capacity of fruits, vegetables, legumes, and grains is not clear. The contents of one type of antioxidant were reduced as the effect of processing may be accompanied by an overall increase in TAC due to easier availability of other groups of antioxidants. An example of this phenomenon is the breakdown of cell walls under infl uence of heating or enzymatic hydrolysis, which can improve the availability of some antioxidants, such as b-carotene11.

Based on: Harasym J, Oledzki R. Effect of fruit and vegetable antioxidants on total antioxidant capacity of blood plasma. Nutrition. 2014;30(5):511-7.

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