A researcher has developed a way to extract beneficial antioxidants from fruit without using chemicals.
Article by Robert Virtue
The phenolic antioxidants are chemical compounds found naturally in plants and fruits, and are nature’s most potent dietary antioxidant.
Vincent Candrawinata, a researcher at the University of Newcastle, has studied how the body can optimally harness phenolic antioxidants since 2010.
He said phenolic antioxidants were more potent because when optimally activated, they had a greater ability to rid the body of harmful free radicals.
“However, because nobody has ever invented a technology to safely extract this compound, it has been under-utilised,” he said.
“What my research has done is that for the very first time, phenolic antioxidants can be produced, extracted, and utilised without the use of any chemical solvents, making it [a] 100 per cent natural dietary antioxidant.”
Dr Candrawinata used apples — a fruit high in phenolics — and water to develop the new extraction method.
He said until now, chemicals had been used to extract phenolic antioxidants.
“This is the reason why a lot of researchers around the world could not utilise and could not explore [phenolics] further in terms of the health benefits of the phenolic antioxidant,” he said.
“Before, they had to use methanol, or ethanol, or acetone to extract this compound.”
The resulting dietary supplement is a complementary one, not a pharmaceutical one.
As such, the supplement does not have to go through a clinical trial, but Dr Candrawinata hopes it will in the future, so the full health benefits can be explored.
Do we need a supplement to activate phenolics?
Why is a supplement needed for people to receive the benefits of phenolic antioxidants? And does eating an apple do the same thing?
“There is no other substitute for our nutrient intake [than] from fresh fruit and vegetables,” Dr Candrawinata said.
“However, eating an apple a day, first, not everyone’s doing it.
“Secondly, because it’s in the raw form, the absorption rate of phenolic compounds is probably only 3 to 5 per cent, as opposed to 90 per cent from our product.
“Thirdly, you would have to take probably five to six apples a day to actually give your body the phenolic antioxidant concentration that you need before it starts showing positive health benefits.
“The phenolic antioxidants that we extracted is in the form that our body is ready to absorb, and is in the form that is water-soluble.”
Dr Candrawinata said the early form of the technology had been peer-reviewed and published.
Healthy diet versus supplements
Emma Beckett is a researcher at the University of Newcastle’s Human Molecular Nutrition Laboratory, and studies gene-nutrient interactions.
She said all supplements needed to be considered carefully before being consumed.
“My biggest concern with dietary supplements is that they distract people from the issues with their diet,” she said.
“People can see supplements as silver bullets, and think that if you take a supplement that has all the healthy things in it, then never mind that you’re eating a bad diet.
“I think the supplement industry preys on the idea that if something is healthy, then more of it must be more healthy.
“For most people, if you are eating a healthy, balanced diet, you’re not going to need a supplement.
“If you take large doses of some of these nutrients, you can be having underlying effects; you might feel healthy, but you might be having effects on your gene expressions that can have later consequences for things like cancer risk or other diseases.”
Dr Beckett said the latest research was a development, but people should not stop eating healthy food in favour of a supplement.
“Finding a way that you can do the extraction from what was essentially apple waste, and do that in a way without using any harmful chemicals — that definitely is technology that’s worthwhile,” she said.
“But we can’t take the leap from that research to ‘taking a pill full of antioxidants from apples is good for you’. It’s not necessarily the case.”