Researchers launch fruit antioxidant database
A Chilean research institution has followed suit from the U.S. in developing a database of antioxidant levels in different fruits. The research was undertaken by the country's Institute of Nutrition and Food Technology (INTA), as part of a government-initiated Corfo-Innova project that took 2.5 years. At www.freshfruitportal.com we speak with INTA director Hernán Speisky Cosoy about the truths and myths of antioxidants, and how they can be utilized in the market.
Speisky says the United States is the only other country that has so far embarked on a similar project, which seeks to raise greater awareness and knowledge about the health benefits of antioxidants and where they can be found.
"In a systematic way we have evaluated the total polyphenol content and ORAC (Oxygen Radical Absorbance Capacity) activity for fruits," he says.
The database covers about 140 different fruits, between species and varieties, and is expected to serve food industry professionals and consumers in understanding how to boost antioxidant intakes. Each fruit product in the database has detailed information not just on antioxidant levels, but also a link to its nutritional value; a process that is still being updated.
Antioxidants and health
Speisky says scientific research into antioxidants in recent decades has made these free radical scavengers synonymous with health. He explains there are some antioxidants that are a natural part of our bodies but there are others that need to come from our diets, which can make a difference between 'simple' and 'optimal' nutrition.
"Optimal nutrition in terms of antioxidants - in the form of food - 'turn-off' the so called free radicals, and when they are produced in a controlled way in the body they don't cause any damage, but if they are generated excessively they can lead to an increased risk of NCDs (noncommunicable diseases), such as cardiovascular diseases, cancer and neurodegenerative diseases," he says.
"The excess production of free radicals is not always balanced by an adequate antioxidant defense capacity. So how do we oppose this increased production of free radicals? Quite simply, by eating more foods that are rich in antioxidants.
He says different types of fruits have different ORAC values, which is a measure that determines the ability of the antioxidants to fight free radicals. For example, the blueberry variety BlueGold has an ORAC of 8756 but Duke blueberries only have 4864. In terms of avocadoes, Hass outperformed other varieties with an ORAC of 4853.
Products with very high ORAC levels included pistachios (6375), black plums (8379), pink grapefruit (6399), Star Ruby grapefruit (5784), raspberries (6903), blackberries (9043) and Chardonay grapes (6142).
But the studies showed highest ORAC results for native berries such as calafate (25662), maqui (19850) murtilla (10770), which could give a few marketing ideas for the future.
Speisky said the information could be easily used by professionals in the fruit industry to promote certain varieties or determine strategies.
"If the market says it's interested in antioxidants, and you know the difference between Duke and BlueGold you can highlight the latter, because in addition to its organoleptic value, the variety BlueGold is particularly rich in antioxidants," he says.
"The business world knows what value is placed on the word antioxidant and the ORAC value makes the difference. People make choices and the same goes with fruit, so in Korea and Japan they are asking, 'what is the ORAC value of these blueberries?'.
"Could it be that the Chilean farmer or exporter makes the difference? Yes. Starting this year the Chilean exporter can realize the ORAC value of our fruit, and in many cases state its from a database that comes from an internationally accredited laboratory."