Natural Antioxidants: Sources, Compounds, Mechanisms of Action, and Potential Applications

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While use of synthetic antioxidants (such as butylated hydroxytoluene and butylated hydroxyanisole) to maintain the quality of ready-to-eat food products has become commonplace, consumer concern regarding their safety has motivated the food industry to seek natural alternatives. Phenolic antioxidants can inhibit free radical formation and/or interrupt propagation of autoxidation. Fat-soluble vitamin E (α-tocopherol) and water-soluble vitamin C (L-ascorbic acid) are both effective in the appropriate matrix. Plant extracts, generally used for their flavoring characteristics, often have strong H-donating activity thus making them extremely effective antioxidants. This antioxidant activity is most often due to phenolic acids (gallic, protocatechuic, caffeic, and rosmarinic acids), phenolic diterpenes (carnosol, carnosic acid, rosmanol, and rosmadial), flavonoids (quercetin, catechin, naringenin, and kaempferol), and volatile oils (eugenol, carvacrol, thymol, and menthol). Some plant pigments (anthocyanin and anthocyanidin) can chelate metals and donate H to oxygen radicals thus slowing oxidation via 2 mechanisms. Tea and extracts of grape seeds and skins contain catechins, epicatechins, phenolic acids, proanthocyanidins, and resveratrol, all of which contribute to their antioxidative activity. The objective of this article is to provide an overview of natural antioxidants, their mechanisms of action, and potential applications.

M.S. Brewer
Comprehensive Reviews in Food Science and Food Safety