From: Allison Winter, ENN
Published February 1, 2013 10:22 AM

Health Benefits of Berries Affected by Saliva

We are constantly being told which foods are good for us. Whether it can help prevent cancers or lower our cholesterol, we assume that because we ingest these vitamin packed super foods, we are getting all the right nutrients that are promised. But according to new research, which studied the breakdown of berries, some of these compounds may not make it past our mouth.

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Scientists at The Ohio State University studied how the living bacteria in our mouth are responsible for most of the breakdowns of food. In the study, researchers exposed the extracts from various berries with high anthocyanin pigments (which are responsible for the red, purple, and blue colors of many fruits and vegetables) to human saliva to see just what kind of health-promoting substances are likely to survive.

The study exposed extracts of the pigments from five fruits including blueberries and black raspberries, to the saliva collected from 14 participants.

The extent of the pigment degradation in saliva was primarily a function of the chemical structure of a given anthocyanin (which contain antioxidants) said Mark Failla, professor of human nutrition at Ohio State and lead researcher. As a result, delphinidin (an antioxidant that gives the blue-red color of the grape) and petunidin (dark red or purple pigment found in redberries) consistently degraded, whereas cyanidin, pelargonidin, peonidin, and malvidin were more stable.

So what does this all mean? Researchers suggest that the bacteria within our mouths are a primary mediator of pigment metabolism. The bacteria in our saliva convert compounds that are present in these nutrient rich foods and break them into metabolites.

Failla says: "One area of great interest is whether the health-promoting benefits associated with eating anthocyanin-rich fruits like berries are provided by the pigment itself, the natural combinations of the pigments in the fruit, or the metabolites produced by bacteria in the mouth and other regions of the gastrointestinal tract."

"If anthocyanins are the actual health-promoting compound, you would want to design food products, confectionaries and gels containing mixtures of anthocyanins that are stable in the mouth. If, on the other hand, the metabolites produced by the metabolism of anthocyanins are the actual health-promoting compounds, there will be greater interest in fruits that contain anthocyanins that are less stable in the oral cavity," Failla explains.

"All fruits are unique because their chemical composition, or fingerprint, varies," said Failla. "Some might be better for providing health-promoting effects within the oral cavity, whereas others may be more beneficial for colonic health. We simply do not know at this time."

The research is published in a recent issue of the journal Food Chemistry.

Read more at The Ohio State University.

Berries image via Shutterstock.

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