IBD, such as Crohn’s disease and ulcerative colitis, is a chronic intestinal inflammatory condition with a growing number of cases worldwide and awaiting safe and effective preventive strategies. Naturally occurring flavonoid compounds are promising therapeutic candidates against IBD due to their great antioxidant potential and ability to reduce inflammation and leaky gut syndrome.
Coloured maize rich in flavonoid and carotenoid compounds are thought to confer better health benefit than conventional maize. Maize plants carrying a functional p1 gene accumulate flavan-4-ols in the pericarp; flavan-4-ols later polymerize into condensed phlobaphenes. Biochemical analyses have shown that phlobaphenes-containing maize possess higher antioxidant capacity than conventional maize.
For the current study, Penn State researchers bred a novel line of corn to produce compounds called flavan-4-ols by obtaining seeds for an inbred corn line and for a corn genetic stock containing genes required for the flavonoid pathway. After back-crossing the plants, the resulting hybrid possessed a higher antioxidant capacity than conventional lines.
The scientists induced mice with IBD syndrome and divided them into four groups. One group was fed a standard, diet, the second and third groups' diets were supplemented with corn containing flavan-4-ols at 15% and 25% and the fourth group was fed a diet supplemented with a genetically related corn that did not contain the flavonoids.
The study, recently published in Nutrients, reports that mice consuming a corn-based diet with flavan-4-ols exhibited alleviated IBD-like symptoms resulting from the protective effect of flavonoids against colonic inflammation by restoring intestinal barrier function.
Lavanya Reddivari, assistant professor of food science at Purdue University, who helped guide the study, says the research provides a rationale for breeding for flavonoid-enriched cultivars for better dietary benefits.
"Most of the epidemiological studies focus on flavonoid-enriched fruits, especially berries." she says. "However, grains contain a high concentration of bound flavonoids that are thought to exert better antioxidant activity and prolonged presence in systemic circulation, compared to free-form flavonoids, due to their slower and continuous release during digestion and microbial fermentation. These results suggest the feasibility of a human intervention study with flavonoid-rich corn to investigate its protective effects."
Wu. B., et al
"Intestinal Mucosal Barrier Function Restoration in Mice by Maize Diet Containing Enriched Flavan-4-Ols"