Study identifies bitter cumin as ‘great source’ of antioxidants

By Nathan Gray

- Last updated on GMT

Related tags: Antioxidant

Seeds from the herb bitter cumin possess a high level of antioxidants, and may help to provide a good source of natural antioxidants to prevent diseases linked with oxidative stress, according to research.

The new study, published in BMC Complementary and Alternative Medicine​, reported that seeds from bitter cumin herb (Centratherum anthelminticum (L.) Kuntze​), a member of the daisy family, are a rich source of phenolic antioxidants. They found extracts of the cumin seeds to be strong antioxidants, with powerful free radical scavenging ability.

“The extracts were also strong electron donors and hence reducing agents, another marker of anti-oxidation,”​ said the authors, led by Dr. K. Akhilender Naidu from the department of biochemistry and nutrition, at the Central Food Technological Research Institute, India.

“In biological tests bitter cumin inhibited the oxidation of liposomes (used as a model for cell membrane oxidation) and offered complete protection against DNA damage,”​ they added.

Dr Naidu and his colleagues also noted that extracts of bitter cumin “contained an array of phenolic compounds which may be responsible for its antioxidant activity.”

Need for natural

According to the authors, the use of synthetic antioxidants in foods began in the late 1940’s, “when BHA was found to be effective antioxidant in fatty foods and toxicological studies proved it safe for food use.”

However, they noted that “serious concerns over the side effects of these synthetic antioxidants”​ later developed, as research pointed towards the carcinogenic potential of synthetic antioxidants.

“As a result there has been a general desire to replace the synthetic food additives with natural antioxidants,”​ said the researchers.

Oxidative stress

Reactive oxygen species (ROS), also known as free radicals, are produced as part of the metabolic processes necessary for life.

However overproduction or under-removal of these free radicals can lead to oxidative stress, which is involved in a number of disorders, including atherosclerosis, neural degenerative disease, inflammation, cancer and ageing.

Naidu and co-workers noted that antioxidants are thought to ‘mop up’ any excess of free radicals, thus reducing oxidative stress, and possibly prevent disease related diseases.

The authors added that many herbal plant ingredients, especially polyphenolic compounds, are considered to be antioxidants. They noted that bitter cumin is used “extensively” ​in traditional medicine to treat a range of diseases.

The new research assessed the antioxidative activity of bitter cumin extracts using a combination of in vitro testing models.

Study details

Naidu and his colleagues reported that at microgram concentration the phenolic extracts of the seeds showed significant scavenging ability, and inhibited liposomes oxidation and hydroxyl radical induced damage to DNA.

“The amount of plant phenols we were able to extract and the antioxidant activity of bitter cumin depended on the method used. Nevertheless the antioxidant activity of bitter cumin correlated with total phenol content so it may well be that an array of phenolic compounds within bitter cumin seeds are responsible for the antioxidant activity seen,” ​said Dr Naidu.

Source: BMC Complementary and Alternative Medicine
Published online ahead of print, doi: 10.1186/1472-6882-11-40
“Antioxidant potential of bitter cumin (Centratherum anthelminticum (L.) Kuntze) seeds in in vitro models”
Authors: V. Ani, K.A. Naidu

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