Tackling food waste: Scientists develop a new way to extract antioxidant nutrients from corn starch waste

SWEDEN-A team of researchers from Sweden’s KTH Royal Institute of Technology has developed a process for extracting ferulic acid, an antioxidant dietary fiber, from corn starch production waste.

The method, published in the scientific journal, Green Chemistry, tends to address the worldwide concern about food waste, in terms of sustainability and greenhouse gas emissions.

In most cases, the largely considered low-value side stream from the production of cornstarch, corn bran, is discarded or sold off for animal feed due to its insolubility nature. 

The new technology however allows for the utilization of the sidestream through the extraction of ferulic acid.

Ferulic acid is a phenolic compound that is also known as a hydroxy-cinnamic acid derivative. Recent evidence suggests that ferulic acid possesses anti-inflammatory, anti-diabetic, anticancer, and cardioprotective properties

However, despite the compound being rich in potent antioxidants, it is naturally trapped in an insoluble material matrix that humans can’t digest.

The KTH team broke this barrier to its utilization by devising a way for releasing the soluble ferulic acid from the insoluble matrix dubbed subcritical water extraction.

Going forward, the team aims to develop a hydrogel by crosslinking this soluble ferulic acid-rich dietary fiber part using natural enzymes (laccase and peroxidase) for different uses.

With the global market for cornstarch expected to increase to 160 million metric tons by 2026 more sidestream is subject to rise since 15% of the kennel is discarded as fiber or corn bran during cornstarch processing.

Francisco Vilaplana, Associate Professor in the Division of Glycoscience at KTH Royal Institute of Technology said: “We showed that we can upgrade a food side stream into a valuable material for both food and biomedical applications that could mitigate inflammatory processes.”

The goal is for the hydrogel to be digested as a prebiotic for gut health, or even used as a treatment for wounds since it counteracts oxidative stress and contributes to healing

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