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For many Americans, highly processed foods are on the menu for breakfast, lunch, and dinner. Even when the raw materials—grains, for example—are high in vitamins and health-promoting phenolic compounds, processing can rob the final product of these nutrients. In a set of recent studies, University of Illinois scientists reveal what happens to cancer-fighting phenolic acids in corn when it is processed into cornflakes.
In a Journal of Agricultural and Food Chemistry study, the research team made cornflakes from 19 corn genotypes varying in phenolic content. They wanted to know if higher ferulic acid and p-courmaric acid content in the corn kernel translated to higher concentrations of these phenolics in the final product.
News - Regardless - Concentration - Grain - Beginning
"What we found was not particularly good news, but it was interesting. Regardless of the concentration in the grain at the beginning, the dry-milling process removes the majority of phenolics," says Carrie Butts-Wilmsmeyer, lead author of the two studies and research assistant professor in the Department of Crop Sciences at U of I.
The phenolic compounds in corn are primarily concentrated in the bran, or the outer covering of the corn kernel, which is removed in the first steps of the dry-milling process. The researchers wanted to determine if they could increase the remaining soluble phenolic content by heating the starchy leftovers during later processing stages. Although most of the phenolics in corn are bound to fiber, heat can release bound forms of the compounds and improve the antioxidant content of corn-based foods.
Increase - Phenolics - Benefit - Refrigerator - Blueberries
"We did see an increase in soluble phenolics, but it was so small, you could have gotten the same benefit from going to the refrigerator and eating a few blueberries," Butts-Wilmsmeyer says.
Despite the less-than-ideal outcome, the studies represent important steps forward for food science researchers and the food processing industry. First, the...
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