A natural antioxidant found in grain bran is being touted as a way to preserve food longer, replacing synthetic antioxidants used by the food industry.
Researchers at Penn State University in the United States say there’s a big consumer-driven push within the food industry to replace synthetic ingredients with natural alternatives.
Andrew Elder, a doctoral candidate in food science, says consumers want synthetic chemical-sounding ingredients removed because they don’t recognize them, and some have purported toxicity.
But Elder says there are not many natural alternatives for synthetic antioxidants.
“Our work is focused on identifying new natural antioxidants to extend the shelf life of food and meet consumer demands,” he says.
The Penn State researchers turned to a class of compounds called alkylresorcinols (AR).
Plants such as wheat, rye and barley produce ARs naturally to prevent mold, bacteria and other organisms from growing on the grain kernels. The researchers wondered if ARs could also preserve food in the same way from a chemical standpoint.
Complicating the issue is the food industry is supplementing more foods with oils rich in omega-3 fatty acids to boost the health benefits for consumers.
Omega-3 rich oils have a shorter shelf life.
“Most people consume omega-3s from marine sources,” Elder says. “As they break down, they can make the product smell and taste fishy. Consumers then throw these products out and don’t buy them again.”
Antioxidants slow the rate at which omega-3 fatty acids degrade, preventing food from spoiling as quickly.
ARs, which can help protect against cancer, come from the bran layer of cereal plants the food industry usually discards or uses for animal feed.