Monday, September 13, 2010

Study finds that sorghum bran has more antioxidants than blueberries, pomegranates

A new University of Georgia study has found that select varieties of sorghum bran have greater antioxidant and anti-inflammatory properties than well-known foods such as blueberries and pomegranates. Researchers measured polyphenolic compounds, which naturally occur in plants to help fight against pests and disease, and found that the black and sumac varieties of sorghum have significant levels of antioxidants. Many fruits also contain these compounds, they said, though sorghum bran may prove to be the richest and cheapest source.

"Since most human chronic disease states are associated with chronic inflammation and high oxidative stress, a food ingredient such as sorghum bran could potentially make certain processed foods better for a healthy diet," said study co-author Diane Hartle, director of the UGA Nutraceutical Research Laboratory and an associate professor in the College of Pharmacy.

Hartle and her colleagues, whose results appear in the current issue of the Journal of Medicinal Food, measured the degree to which extracts from four different varieties of sorghum reduced inflammation in mice. They found that black and sumac varieties showed significantly higher levels of polyphenolic content and antioxidant levels than the two low-tannin varieties tested, which did not reduce inflammation.

The authors found that levels of polyphenolic compounds in the high-tannin sorghum varieties ranged from 23 to 62 mg of polyphenols per gram. For comparison, blueberries contain approximately 5 mg of polyphenolics per gram, while pomegranate juice contains 2 to 3.5 mg per gram.

The U.S. is the largest producer of sorghum in the world. Most of the sorghum grown, however, is a low-tannin variety that is fed to cattle and poultry or used to manufacture ethanol to fuel cars. "High-tannin sorghums can be of greater economy to manufacturers because of the current cost of berry and fruit sources of similar plant-based chemicals," said study co-author Phillip Greenspan, associate professor in the UGA College of Pharmacy.

High-tannin sorghum bran products have not been available in supermarket foods until recently. The researchers said they hope to generate interest in sorghum bran or its extract as an additive to food and beverages. Sorghum bran extract could be added to a variety of foods and beverages as a liquid concentrate or dried powder. The Great Plains area of the U.S. is the largest worldwide producer of sorghum, and the researchers said that the combination of its low price and high antioxidant and anti-inflammatory properties will make it widely useful as an inexpensive and nutritional food additive.

The researchers have already experimented with adding the extract to apple juice to make it an affordable alternative to pomegranate juice and other antioxidant-rich products. "We're hoping that some company decides to extract this bran and pull these chemicals out and put the extract into a beverage that can help you fight disease rather than promote disease," Hartle said.

Study co-author James Hargrove, associate professor in the UGA College of Family and Consumer Sciences, added that high-tannin sorghum has more antioxidant phytochemicals than other brans such as rice, wheat and oats, whose phenolic content and antioxidant values are low. He and Hartle said that the use of sorghum can become a way to reintroduce a quality food to many products that now use bleached, refined flour.

"Sorghum bran not only provides the fiber but gives you a real medicinal punch at the same time because it delivers a lot of other chemicals that a berry would give you," Hartle said.

Source: University of Georgia

Monday, September 6, 2010

Bottled Tea Comes Up Short In Antioxidant Tests

Tea companies like to brag about the antioxidants in their bottled tea beverages.
Some even put the amount of antioxidants on the label. But if you think that you’re getting a big dose of these natural chemicals from your favorite bottled brew, think again.

green tea
If you're looking for antioxidants in tea, you're better brewing your own rather than buying the bottled stuff.
Reseachers tested bottled teas for antioxidants called polyphenols and found that most brands contain very little of them.

  “Out of 49 samples, half of the bottle teas contain less then 10 milligrams of polyphenols,” says Shiming Li, a natural products chemist at WellGen, a company that's working to develop foods for medical use.

A cup of home-brewed green or black tea has 50-150 milligrams of polyphenols. So you'd have to drink between 5 and 20 of those pint-size bottles of tea to get the same amount of antioxidants. That’s a lot of tea.

The research findings were presented this weekend at an American Chemical Society meeting in Boston. Li says the analysis was part of WellGen research toward developing a product for diabetes that contains tea concentrate.

Despite the poor antioxidant content, tea companies have benefited from the healthy image of tea. Li says that sales of bottled teas have increased 90 percent since 2004. And considering how much more bottled teas costs than tea bags, consumers could aren’t getting a bargain when it comes to antioxidants.

Tea experts have been hip to the low polyphenol levels in bottled teas for a while now. "Bottled teas are a scam," declares Susanne Henning, a researcher at UCLA who has been studying the health effects of tea for years. "They’re mainly sugar water."

Henning says that polyphenols in tea start breaking down after the tea is brewed. So if a bottle has been sitting on the shelf for a while, there may be only a little — if any — antioxidants in the tea. Such small amounts, says Henning, won’t provide any of the health benefits associated with tea. Plus, many tea beverages have just as much sugar as soda.

To get the most out of your tea, Henning suggests brewing a fresh batch in the morning and drinking the tea throughout the day. After 24 hours, she says, the tea should be chucked. Green tea extract is another good option, she says.

As for bottled teas, there’s nothing wrong with drinking them if you like the taste. Just don’t expect them to do much for your health.

Friday, September 3, 2010

Black Rice Is a Healthy Alternative to Blueberries

Looking for a way to increase antioxidants in your diet but balk at the price of blueberries or blackberries? Researchers at a meeting of the American Chemical Society report that black rice is an economical and perhaps even more healthful alternative. "Just a spoonful of black rice bran contains more health promoting anthocyanin antioxidants than are found in a spoonful of blueberries, but with less sugar and more fiber and vitamin E antioxidants," said Zhimin Xu, Associate Professor at the Department of Food Science, Louisiana State Univ. Agricultural Center, Baton Rouge, who reported on the research. Antioxidants have been shown to fight cancer and heart disease and Xu suggests adding black rice bran to cereals and baked goods to increase their disease fighting potential.

Cinnamon Extract May Reduce Diabetes