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Scientists at the University of Illinois have developed new hybrids of purple corn containing different combinations of phytochemicals that may fight obesity, inflammation and diabetes, a new study in mice indicates.
The pericarp—or outer layer—of purple and other brightly colored corn kernels also may provide an alternative source of colorants for food products, giving corn producers another value-added product from their crop, said the U. of I. team led by food science professor Elvira Gonzalez de Mejia and crop sciences professor John Juvik. They published their findings recently in the journal Food Chemistry.
Strain - Maize - Apache - Red - Juvik
From a strain of maize called Apache Red, Juvik's team bred 20 genetic varieties of purple corn, each with a unique combination of anthocyanins, the nutritious, natural pigments that give the pericarp its vibrant color.
Widely found in plant tissues, phenolic compounds tend to be aromatic and contribute to the color, flavor and acidity of fruits. Anthocyanins are one class of phenols, and studies have associated the consumption of anthocyanin-rich foods with reduced risks of cardiovascular disease, Type 2 diabetes and certain types of cancer.
Water - Researcher - Diego - Luna-Vital - Anthocyanins
Using pressurized water, postdoctoral researcher and study co-author Diego Luna-Vital extracted the anthocyanins from the pericarp of the corn kernels, creating anthocyanin-rich water extracts that were then freeze-dried. While analyses of the extracts showed that the pericarp is an abundant source of anthocyanins and phenolic compounds, the concentration varied significantly among the varieties.
To examine the impact of anthocyanins on obesity-induced inflammation, then-graduate student and first author of the study Qiaozhi Zhang combined fat cells—called adipocytes—from mice with large immune cells called macrophages.
Mouse - Cell - Models - Study - People
The mouse cell models in the study simulated those of obese people with high concentrations of lipids and inflammation in their cells, or healthy individuals who regularly eat plants containing phenolic compounds, de Mejia said. "So these are very real models that can be translated...
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