Researchers with Penn State University have discovered a natural antioxidant that preserves food almost as well as synthetic antioxidants already in use. Consumers have demanded a natural alternative for years, though synthetics are still largely used by the food industry. That may soon change thanks to an antioxidant found in bran. According to the research, the natural ingredient could potentially preserve food longer than the synthetic alternative one day.
Key to the discovery are alkylresorcinols (ARs), a class of compounds produced by grains like barley and wheat as a protective measure against harmful organisms. Given the compounds’ usefulness for protecting these grains, researchers explored them as a potential way to preserve food.
Though food manufacturers have expressed a willingness to satisfy consumer demand by utilizing natural antioxidants, an alternative as effective as synthetic preservatives has remained elusive. As part of their research, the team extracted ARs from rye bran, then tested them as a preservative with emulsions that contained omega-3-rich oils.
The natural preservatives were found to effectively increase the lifespan of the oils in comparison to not using any antioxidants. The researchers then compared the results to a pair of preservatives commonly used by the food industry, one that is natural and another that is synthetic.
The AR-based preservative wasn’t as effective as either in that experiment, but a lack of purity and the particular ARs blend may not have been as effective as possible. Further development into an effective future food preservative may present a useful way to utilize bran, which is often discarded as waste.