Friday, December 18, 2020

Free radicals and food quality

Oxygen is an element indispensable for life. When cells use oxygen to generate energy, free radicals are created as a consequence of ATP (adenosine triphosphate) production by the mitochondria.

A free radical can be defined as an atom or molecule containing one or more unpaired electrons in valency shell or outer orbit and is capable of independent existence.

The presence of an unpaired electron results in certain common properties that are shared by most radicals. Many radicals are unstable and highly reactive. They can either donate an electron to or accept an electron from other molecules, therefore behaving as oxidants or reductants.

If free radicals overwhelm the body’s ability to regulate them, a condition known as oxidative stress ensues. Oxidative stress plays a major part in the development of chronic and degenerative ailments such as cancer, arthritis, aging, autoimmune disorders, cardiovascular and neurodegenerative diseases.

In food, free radicals are derived from major food components or their reactive constituents, such as proteins, lipids, and carbohydrates. The formation and decay of free radicals lead to chemical changes in food and thus affect food quality during processing and storage.

The free radicals promote the development of a series of chemical reactions which lead to the production of off-flavors, colors, odors, and rancidity. While both saturated and unsaturated fatty acids are susceptible to oxidation, unsaturated fatty acids are significantly more susceptible than their saturated counterparts at room temperatures and at elevated temperatures.

Synthetic and natural food antioxidants are used routinely in foods and medicine especially those containing oils and fats to protect the food against oxidation. There are a number of synthetic phenolic antioxidants, butylated hydroxytoluene (BHT) and butylated hydroxyanisole (BHA) being prominent examples.

Tea and rosemary extracts are known as efficient natural antioxidants to prevent lipid oxidation in the food industry. The antioxidant activities of tea and rosemary are associated with the presence of phenolic compounds, which can break the lipid radical chain reaction and thus inhibit lipid oxidation.
Free radicals and food quality

The most popular articles