Profiling Promising Plant CompoundsBy Rosalie Marion Bliss
April 7, 2008
Phenolic compounds are prevalent in most foods, and their powerful antioxidant capabilities may provide significant health benefits. Agricultural Research Service (ARS) chemists James Harnly and Long-Ze Lin have developed a new standardized profiling method for distinguishing even slight variations in the types and amounts of these compounds in foods. Discerning potentially beneficial food components is important for conducting clinical nutrition studies and for developing dietary guidance.
Harnly is presenting this research at the annual Experimental Biology (EB) 2008 meeting this week in San Diego, Calif. He's among ARS scientists giving more than 50 presentations at the meeting from April 5-9.
Harnly and Lin are with the ARS Beltsville Human Nutrition Research Center (BHNRC) in Beltsville, Md. ARS is the U.S. Department of Agriculture's chief scientific research agency. The EB conference is sponsored by member societies of the Federation of American Societies for Experimental Biology, or FASEB.
There are approximately 6,000 different phenolic compounds in plant species worldwide. The BHNRC researchers, with the center's Food Components and Methods Development Laboratory, apply the profiling method to every new sample as a standard approach. It enables them to make a detailed identification of the phenolic compounds in most foods, including fruits, vegetables, spices and dietary supplements.
Using the new method, Harnly and Lin have identified nearly 60 phenolic components in Ginkgo biloba leaves, including many that had never before been detected in the popular herb. They also used the unique profiling method to differentiate phenolics in more than 360 other foods, such as Mexican oregano, Fuji apple peel, soybean seed, broccoli, dry beans, tea and coffee.
ARS scientists are presenting a wide range of other topics at EB this year. Those include the continuing problem of excess sodium consumption in the United States, the effect of consuming cranberry juice short-term on the way blood vessels respond to stress, and the ability of almond consumption to decrease damage to cell membranes as measured by biomarkers of oxidative stress.
More information on ARS presenters and session topics is available upon request.