My professor saw the light in me at the young age of 19, little did she know she was igniting something inside of me that would be a part of my story forever.
Through all four years of undergrad, I conducted research in the chemistry department. Though I was a biology major, most of my time was spent as a Chemist. Chemistry quantified what biology conceptualized and I loved it. Organic Chemistry made sense in my mind. It's like I could figuratively see the movement of the atoms and molecules in my mind.
I was hand selected from a class of about 200 students to join a team of five research assistants. I remember being a little apprehensive at first, because I didn't want anything "extra" on my plate as a freshman in college. I consulted with another trusted professor in the Chemistry department about the opportunity, and decided to go for it!
Little did I know what portals this research would unlock within me... I was slowly remembering what I was incarnated here to do.
As researchers, we must repeat processes over and over again to increase validity. As I learned the role of a Chemist/Biologist in the development medicines and in the prevention of progressive, degenerative, and chronic diseases I became enamored. The research I conducted made sense. I became obsessed with nutrition, lifestyle change, and chronic disease prevention. I didn't have those words to describe my passions then, but I felt the flame ignite.
I reviewed procedures from Professor Jay Burgess of Purdue University's Department of Foods & Nutrition research entitled "Phytochemical Antioxidants with Potential Health Benefits in Foods." His research focused on oxidative stress in mammals and the physiological results of continued cellular oxidative stress forming reactive oxygen — a cell destroying free radical. He aimed to answer this question: "how do we reverse or reduce the effects of oxidative stress?" The short answer, antioxidants! Specifically flavonoids which are widely distributed in plants and have shown a wide range of biological and pharmacological activities including antioxidant activity.
The below chart will guide our discussion ~
illustration credit Research Gate
In today's world, ever-increasing levels of physical and mental stress, environmental pollution, and packaged foods carry risks of generating free radicals. Studies have shown that free radicals can lead to neurodegenerative diseases such as Parkinson's and Alzheimer's disease, different types of cancer, cardiovascular disease, and health issues associated with aging. Studies have also shown that individuals who consume the daily, recommended serving of fruits and vegetables are at a lower risk for these health hazards that could be in part due to the antioxidants present. Antioxidants make up a portion of the larger groups of phytochemicals found in whole fruits, vegetables, nuts, and leaves.
Although there is a wealth of data on the importance of antioxidants in providing protection from oxidation, the correlation between antioxidant activity and chemical structure is far from clear.
The purpose of my research was to analyze the antioxidant capacity of phenolic compounds. Essentially it focused on the structure of phenolic antioxidants and how different structures determine the potency of the antioxidant. Phenolic compounds are known antioxidants and are present in fruits, vegetables, nuts, and leaves. Their antioxidant capacity is determined using a Trolox-equivalent antioxidant capacity (TEAC) assay. The assay compares the quenching of the free radical cation ABTS by the antioxidant Trolox which is a variant of vitamin E — a known antioxidant. The reactivity of the various antioxidants tested are compared to that of Trolox.
I was on a quest to find the best antioxidant based on the structural makeup of the antioxidant, given their functional group(s) interaction with the free radical. I knew the number and position of the hydroxyl, methoxy, and methyl functional groups mattered.
This is what I mean by chemistry quantifies what biology conceptualizes (and public health contextualizes it all ☺️). We know certain foods are inflammatory and antioxidants are there to combat inflammation, but not all antioxidants are created equally.
I tested 17 different antioxidants in a controlled laboratory environment. Without getting too scienc-y, a blue-black free radical solution, created by the ABTS cation, was placed in an amber vial. After 24hours, the free radical solution was pipetted into testing tubes, then liquid antioxidant (the polyphenols we were testing) was added to each vial. The rate of absorbance (aka how fast the antioxidant dissolved the free radical solution and made the solution clear) was measured and recorded after six minutes. A color spectrometer was used to measure the transparency of the solution after the free radical "danced" with the antioxidant for six minutes. During each reaction, the blue-black ABTS radical cation in the presence of each antioxidant is converted back to its colorless neutral form. The time it took to neutralize the free radical determined the potency of the antioxidant.
The positioning of the functional groups showed more effectiveness than the number of functional groups. However, quercetin was identified as the most potent phenolic antioxidant tested due to the position and number of the hydroxyl groups.
Food compounds containing Quercetin:
green and yellow peppers
⬆️ Go get you some of these ⬆️
I share my research in efforts to let you all in on my journey to complementary medicine and the effects of lifestyle choices on chronic disease prevention. I will for sure create another post discussing Quercetin in more detail. If you have any questions, I would love to answer them below!
Thanks for reading 💚
Hello world! I am Chérie Jade, I am passionate about promoting a holistic lifestyle and encouraging preventative practices for day to day healthy living.