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Fruit is even better for you than previously thought

Visit  Institute of Food Research website

27 August 2009

An international team of scientists has found that the polyphenol content of fruits has been underestimated.

Polyphenol content in fruits usually refers to extractable polyphenols, but a Spanish scientist working at the Institute of Food Research in Norwich analysed apple, peach and nectarine. She found that nonextractable polyphenol content is up to five times higher than extractable compounds. This work has been published in the Journal of Agricultural and Food Chemistry.

These polyphenols need to be treated with acid to extract them from the cell walls of fruit in the lab,” said Sara Arranz from the Spanish Council for Scientific Research (CSIC) in Madrid. “If non-extractable polyphenols are not considered, the levels of beneficial polyphenols such as proanthocyanidins, ellagic acid and catechin are substantially underestimated.”

Dr Paul Kroon from IFR explains: “In the human body these compounds will be fermented by bacteria in the colon, creating metabolites that may be beneficial, for example with antioxidant activity.”

The Spanish research group, led by Professor Fulgencio Saura-Calixto, has been working to show that nonextractable polyphenols, which mostly escape analysis and are not usually considered in nutritional studies, are a major part of bioactive compounds in the diet.

“These polyphenols are major constituents of the human diet with important health properties. To consider them in nutritional and epidemiological research may be useful for a better understanding of the effects of plant foods in health,” says Professor Saura-Calixto.

The study was funded by a scholarship to Dr Arranz from the Spanish Ministry of Science and through IFR’s core strategic grant from the BBSRC.


Notes to editors

Full reference: High contents of nonextractable polyphenols in fruits suggest that polyphenol contents of plant foods have been underestimated J. Agric. Food Chem., 2009, 57 (16), pp 7298–7303

Other recent publications: Intake and bioaccessibility of total polyphenols in a whole diet, doi:10.1016/j.foodchem.2006.02.006 (the amount of non extractable polyphenols was almost double that of extractable polyphenols in the Spanish diet). Proanthocyanidin content in foods is largely underestimated in the literature data. An approach to quantification of the missing proanthocyanidins. doi:10.1016/j.foodres.2009.07.002

About IFR

The mission of the Institute of Food Research is to undertake international quality scientific research relevant to food and human health and to work in partnership with others to provide underpinning science for consumers, policy makers, the food industry and academia. It is a company limited by guarantee, with charitable status, grant aided by the BBSRC. More information can be found at


The Biotechnology and Biological Sciences Research Council (BBSRC) is the UK funding agency for research in the life sciences. Sponsored by Government, BBSRC annually invests around £450 million in a wide range of research that makes a significant contribution to the quality of life for UK citizens and supports a number of important industrial stakeholders including the agriculture, food, chemical, healthcare and pharmaceutical sectors. BBSRC carries out its mission by funding internationally competitive research, providing training in the biosciences, fostering opportunities for knowledge transfer and innovation and promoting interaction with the public and other stakeholders on issues of scientific interest in universities, centres and institutes.

The Babraham Institute, Institute for Animal Health, Institute of Food Research, John Innes Centre and Rothamsted Research are Institutes of BBSRC. The Institutes conduct long-term, mission-oriented research using specialist facilities. They have strong interactions with industry, Government departments and other end-users of their research.

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