Tag Archives: antioxidant


Grasshoppers, silkworms, giant cicadas are a good source of antioxidants — if you eat them

Insect-based dinner might not sound very enticing but new research shows it’s definitely packed full of antioxidants.


Image credits Will Brown / Flickr.

A new study reports that edible insects and other creepy crawlies are comparable foods such as olive oil and orange juice in antioxidant content. The findings come as an effort to further entice people to consider insects as part of their diet, a move that would have huge implications for the sustainability and environmental footprint of agriculture worldwide.

Young grasshopper — sautéd

“At least 2 billion people — a quarter of the world’s population — regularly eat insects,” says Prof. Mauro Serafini, lead author of the study published in Frontiers in Nutrition. “The rest of us will need a bit more encouragement.”

“Edible insects are an excellent source of protein, polyunsaturated fatty acids, minerals, vitamins and fiber. But until now, nobody had compared them with classical functional foods such as olive oil or orange juice in terms of antioxidant activity.”

The fact of the matter is that what most of us put on the table, combined with how many people Earth houses currently, simply doesn’t make for a sustainable future. Insects can help us address this issue; they have a much more modest environmental footprint than livestock, and are a great source of nutrients. However, most people are quite reluctant to come anywhere near these animals, let alone put them in their mouth.

Those who do, however, will likely see the benefits, the new paper reports. According to the analysis, crickets pack 75% the antioxidant power of fresh OJ, and silkworm fat twice that of olive oil. The team hopes that the findings will provide the nudge many people need to consider including these insects into their diets. That taste and presentation are key elements of food, they write, but hope that the ‘selfish and immediate incentives’ provided by the insects’ antioxidant properties will be enough to convince some consumers.

“Consumption of foods rich in antioxidants, such as fruit and vegetables, play an important role in the prevention of oxidative stress-related diseases such as cardiovascular disease, diabetes and cancer,” the study explains.

Antioxidants are substances that bind free-radicals, uncharged molecules which are typically highly reactive and short-lived that damage cells and tissues. The team tested a range of commercially-available insects and invertebrates for their antioxidant activity. The inedible parts of these animals (such as wings or stingers) were removed, after which the insects were ground up.

Two parts were extracted from each species: a fat- and a water-soluble fraction. Each extract was then tested for antioxidant content and activity. Water-soluble extracts of grasshoppers, silkworms, and crickets have “antioxidant capacity 5-fold higher than fresh orange juice,” the authors report. The fat-soluble fractions of evening cicadas and silkworms showed twice the antioxidant activity of olive oil. “For perspective, using the same setup we tested the antioxidant capacity of fresh orange juice and olive oil — functional foods that are known to exert antioxidant effects in humans,” adds Serafini.

Fat-soluble fraction.

Trolox Equivalent Antioxidant Capacity (TEAC) of fat-soluble extracts compared to olive oil.
Image credits Selena Ahmed et al., (2019), Frontiers.

Water-soluble fraction.

Trolox Equivalent Antioxidant Capacity (TEAC) of water-soluble extracts compared to fresh orange juice.
Image credits Selena Ahmed et al., (2019), Frontiers.


However, these values are representative for the dry, isolated extracts, which aren’t something you’d want to eat. The water content of the insects was within 2-7% while orange juice is 88% water; most foods fall somewhere in between the two. A glass of 88% water, 12% grasshopper or silkworm extract would have around three-quarters of the antioxidative effect of a glass of OJ.

Another interesting finding is that the insects showed a lower total content of polyphenols (a major source of plant-derived antioxidant activity) across the board compared to orange juice. However, this compound alone couldn’t account for the full antioxidant capacity seen in the study — suggesting that insects also contain a yet-unknown substance with antioxidant capacity.

“The in vivo efficiency [i.e. in humans] of antioxidant-rich food is highly dependent on bioavailability and the presence of an ongoing oxidative stress. So as well as identifying other antioxidant compounds in insects, we need tailored intervention studies to clarify their antioxidant effects in humans,” Serafini says.

“In the future, we might also adapt dietary regimens for insect rearing in order to increase their antioxidant content for animal or human consumption.”

The paper “Antioxidant Activities in vitro of Water and Liposoluble Extracts Obtained by Different Species of Edible Insects and Invertebrates” has been published in the journal Frontiers in Nutrition.

Buy art not cocaine.

Scientists successfully undo cocaine-induced cardiovascular damage in mice

Researchers at the Miller School of Medicine, University of Miami, discovered a potential new pathway to treat the devastating effect of cocaine on the cardiovascular system. They found out that excess levels of reactive oxygen species (ROS), molecules known to be found in the aortas of hypertensive animals and humans, are also involved in cocaine-related cardiovascular disease.

Buy art not cocaine.

Image credits Dave O / Flickr.

ROS are a type of unstable molecules that contain oxygen and rapidly react with other chemical molecules in a cell. An excess of reactive oxygen species inside cells may cause DNA, RNA, and protein damage, and can lead to cell death.

Scientists discovered that cocaine activates the molecule microRNA (miR)-30c-5p, increasing ROS levels in the circulatory system. The team also found that by blocking the activation of miR-30c-5p, they could dramatically reduce damage to the cardiovascular system.

“The biggest surprise to us was that the modulation of a single miRNA-mRNA pathway could have such a profound effect on cardiovascular function,” says Chunming Dong, M.D., study senior author and professor of medicine at the University of Miami.

“This also suggests that targeting this one pathway may have significant therapeutic benefit, which is an exciting possibility.”

The team performed their research using mice. They injected the animals with cocaine and assessed their circulatory health: the mice had high blood pressure, excess levels of ROS, and stiff blood vessels. All these are markers of cardiovascular disease. Researchers also observed a buildup in the miR-30c-5p molecule. When scientists administered cocaine but treated the mice with antioxidants, they managed to inhibit the excessive accumulation of miR-30c-5p and the mice showed no changes in blood pressure, vessel elasticity, or ROS levels.

Doctor Dong says that this is the first study to identify the role of miR-30c-5p in cocaine-related cardiovascular disease. He also notes that the study has some limitations due to the fact that the experiments were only conducted on mice. His research team plans to examine human patients as well, to see if this targeted pathway is viable.

The paper was published in the journal Hypertension, on February 26, 2018.

Mushrooms are ‘the richest source’ of two antioxidants which fight age-related diseases

Mushrooms could be a boon against aging and age-related diseases thanks to their high content in antioxidants, new paper reports.

Porcini mushrooms.

Image via Pixabay.

A study from the Penn State Center for Plant and Mushroom Products reports that mushrooms contain high levels of ergothioneine and glutathione, two compounds with important antioxidant properties according to Robert Beelman, professor emeritus of food science and director of the center. The amount of the two compounds varied greatly between the different mushroom species, he adds.

“What we found is that, without a doubt, mushrooms are highest dietary source of these two antioxidants taken together, and that some types are really packed with both of them,” said Beelman.

He explains that certain by-products released when our bodies break down food to produce energy, called free radicals, which are toxic to living organisms. That’s because they produce oxidative stress — free radicals are oxygen atom species with free electrons in their electron shells. They’re so highly reactive, that their efforts to pair up with anything and satisfy that electron deficiency can cause damage to cells, proteins, even DNA strands they come into contact with as they travel through the body.

Antioxidants are substances that protect the body against oxidative stress.

“The body has mechanisms to control most [free radicals], including ergothioneine and glutathione, but eventually enough accrue to cause damage, which has been associated with many of the diseases of aging, like cancer, coronary heart disease and Alzheimer’s,” Beelman adds.

Porcini mushrooms (Boletus edulis), the paper reports, has the highest concentrations of both ergothioneine and glutathione among the 13 species tested. Porcini is a wild variety of mushroom, “really popular in Italy where searching for it has become a national pastime,” according to Beelman. More common types, like the white button (Agaricus bisporus) so ubiquitous in grocery shops, contained lower levels of these compounds — but still more than most other foods.

Cooking wasn’t found to have a significant effect on the compounds, although there is evidence that suggests cooking impacts mushrooms’ nutritional properties and levels of other antioxidant compounds.

“Ergothioneine are very heat stable,” said Beelman.

In the future, the center will study the role that ergothioneine and glutathione have in decreasing the likelihood of neurodegenerative diseases, such as Parkinson’s disease and Alzheimer’s disease, he added.

“It’s preliminary, but you can see that countries that have more ergothioneine in their diets, countries like France and Italy, also have lower incidents of neurodegenerative diseases, while people in countries like the United States, which has low amounts of ergothioneine in the diet, have a higher probability of diseases like Parkinson’s Disease and Alzheimer’s,” he explains.

“Now, whether that’s just a correlation or causative, we don’t know. But, it’s something to look into, especially because the difference between the countries with low rates of neurodegenerative diseases is about 3 milligrams per day, which is about five button mushrooms each day.”

The paper “Mushrooms: A rich source of the antioxidants ergothioneine and glutathione” has been published in the journal Food Chemistry.

Fresh Fruits And Vegetables Retain Antioxidants



Fruits and vegetables are very important for your health and “Eat your fruits and vegetables” is one most used recommendations for a healthy diet – and for good reason. They help you ward off heart disease and stroke, control blood pressure and cholesterol, prevent some types of cancer, avoid a painful intestinal ailment called diverticulitis, and guard against cataract and macular degeneration – the benefits are numerous, pretty much too numerous to name them here. But how much do fruits retain their antioxidant content and how much fruit should you eat are facts less known – one could argue that fruits also contain sweets, and too much sweets is definitely not good..

The average American gets a total of just three servings of fruits and vegetables a day. The latest dietary guidelines call for five to thirteen servings of fruits and vegetables a day, depending on one’s caloric intake. In recent years scientists have made a solid base of science to back up. The largest and longest study to date which was made by Harvard-based Nurses’ Health Study and Health Professionals Follow-up Study, included almost 110,000 men and women whose health and dietary habits were followed for 14 years. The higher the average daily intake of fruits and vegetables, the lower the chances of developing cardiovascular disease. Eating more fruits and vegetables can also help lower cholesterol. In the National Heart, Lung, and Blood Institute’s Family Heart Study, the 4466 subjects consumed on average a shade over 3 servings of fruits and vegetables a day. You could talk about the benefits they bring for days; but what you should learn is that you should try to eat more fruits and vegetables and a variety of different fruits and vegetables.

Belgian scientists report that fruits and vegetables retain the antioxidant content in the days after purchase, even as tell-tale signs of spoilage appear. In some cases, antioxidant levels actually rise. The results showed that, in the days following purchase, fruits and vegetables retain their antioxidant content.