University work confirms Thermaculture® heat-treatments create higher inducible phenolics and antioxidant activity in apples.
North Dakota State University (NDSU) compared two years of fresh apples exposed to periodic Thermaculture heat-treatments versus conventionally grown apples, and concluded that heat-treatments create significantly higher inducible levels of phenolic metabolities and related antioxidant activity.
According to Dr. Kalidas Shetty, the lead scientist on the project, "We did biochemical analysis of six different apple varieties, both heat-treated and conventional from 2016, and four varieties from 2017. Our goal was to determine if apples would respond to instantaneous heat-shocking protocols developed by (Agrothermal Systems), in much the same way as studies we published in 2016 where we discovered significant differences for wine. We observed consistent inducible phenolics in both studies."
Dr. Shetty went on to explain that their focus at NDSU is to find ways to improve the health benefits of various food crops and how they are grown. "There is increasing insights that foods high in phenolic metabolities and related antioxidant activity have exciting potential in developing better food systems for dietary support for the management of oxidation-linked non-communicable chronic diseases such as heart disease and type 2 diabetes. There is increasing good evidence that Thermaculture raises these levels of healthful diet relevant metabolites such as phenolics linked antioxidant activity significantly in apples and wine grapes. It is also quite probable these nutrients would be increased if Thermaculture were used on other fruits and vegetables now that we have seen this effect on two different crops."
Marty Fischer, Agrothermal Systems CEO, has worked closely with the team at NDSU since 2015, and has been involved with other studies evaluating fruit chemistry and related positive metabolic changes. He believes that induced phenolic metabolites and antioxidant activity are potentially a self-defense response triggered by shocking the plant with periodic heat. According to Fischer, "these metabolic related biochemical markers are clear indications of plant self-defense activation and are the reason that wines treated with our process taste better. Now, with the apple results, we feel fruit and vegetables treated with this process would most likely have improved taste characteristics as well." Fischer went on to indicate that the higher phenolic metabolites might also extend shelf life and storage, acting as natural preservatives.
Agrothermal Systems is in the process of expanding its market to include many produce and vegetable crops. Fischer added, “The primary aim and benefit of Thermaculture is to reduce or eliminate insecticide and fungicides in food production. The idea that the same heat-treatments make food more healthful, extends storage and shelf life, and provides better sensory characteristics is going to change the way we grow and market fresh and processed foods." Fischer and Shetty readily admit such changes take many years of overcoming skepticism and that agriculture is slow to change, even when the world demands it. According to Fischer, "it seems inconceivable that a new process contributing significantly to reduce pest problems, improve taste, increase healthfulness, potentially extend shelf life and save on input costs would take long to adopt. But, changing accepted practices is the challenge we face."
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