Harold Corke on Natural Sources of Antioxidants

Fast Moving Fronts Commentary, March 2011

Harold Corke

Article: Antioxidant capacity of 26 spice extracts and characterization of their phenolic constituents

Authors: Shan, B;Cai, YZ;Sun, M;Corke, H
Journal: J AGR FOOD CHEM, 53 (20): 7749-7759, OCT 5 2005
Addresses: Univ Hong Kong, Dept Bot, Hong Kong, Hong Kong, Peoples R China.
Univ Hong Kong, Dept Bot, Hong Kong, Hong Kong, Peoples R China.
Univ Hong Kong, Dept Zool, Hong Kong, Hong Kong, Peoples R China.

Harold Corke talks with ScienceWatch.com and answers a few questions about this month's Fast Moving Fronts paper in the field of Agricultural Sciences.

SW: Why do you think your paper is highly cited?

There is renewed recent interest in natural sources of antioxidants for use in functional foods, and as natural antimicrobials. There is a lot of traditional knowledge about various sources of antioxidants, such as from traditional medicinal plants (from China, India, and elsewhere) and from spices with a long history of use. Our work contributes to the scientific understanding of some of these traditional practices.

SW: Does it describe a new discovery, methodology, or synthesis of knowledge?

Much of the scientific literature data on antioxidants is fragmented, dispersed, often out-of-date in terms of measurement techniques, and too often presents studies on only one antioxidant source without comparative or control data. We have tried to present accurate comparative data for a large number of spices, to present a baseline for reference in further studies.

SW: Would you summarize the significance of your paper in layman's terms?

"There is a lot of wisdom built into traditional culinary systems, in terms of nutrition and food safety."

From our research (on spices, and on Chinese and Indian medicinal plants) other researchers can quickly identify plant sources with an antioxidant profile that may fit with their own needs in a particular project. I consider this to be basic research which supports applied or applicable research.

SW: How did you become involved in this research, and how would you describe the particular challenges, setbacks, and successes that you've encountered along the way?

We came to this research through an interest in betalains or betacyanins from Amaranthus, which are red-colored pigments (such as from beetroot) that are used as natural food colorants but also have antioxidant properties. In studying a larger diversity of antioxidants, of course there are challenges in assembling representative and taxonomically correct collections of material, and in structural characterization of the diverse chemicals present. The work is interdisciplinary, requiring botanical, chemical, and food science skills, and often a cultural understanding of traditional uses of the plants.

SW: Where do you see your research leading in the future?

We have continued with studies on structure-radical scavenging activity relationships of phenolic compounds from traditional Chinese medicinal plants, and on the antibacterial activity of dietary spice and medicinal herb extracts. Some of our papers seem set to follow the same pattern of rapid citation, showing there is a lot of practical interest in this area.

SW: Do you foresee any social or political implications for your research?

Socially, our work fits with the ongoing trends in sustainable, natural, and green production. There is a lot of wisdom built into traditional culinary systems, in terms of nutrition and food safety.

Dr. Harold Corke
Associate Professor, School of Biological Sciences
The University of Hong Kong
Pokfulam, Hong Kong



   |   BACK TO TOP