New process extracts more beneficial pigment from purple corn
Those purple corn chips you see in the store aren't just a gimmick – the corn's purple pigment actually has health benefits. Researchers have now devised a method of extracting more of it from the usually discarded cob, for a variety of uses.
Both the kernels and cobs of purple corn contain a pigment known as anthocyanin, ingestion of which may help reduce the risk of developing heart disease or diabetes.
People eat the kernels, of course, but the pigment present in the cobs is typically just thrown away along with them. Scientists have previously tried extracting anthocyanin from those cobs, but the processes have typically involved the use of harsh solvents. Led by Fabrizio Adani, Roberto Pilu and Patrizia De Nisi, a team at the University of Milan set out to devise a more effective and less toxic approach.
They started by developing a new variety of purple corn, from which they harvested the kernels. As part of a"quick and cheap" biorefinery technique, the leftover dried cobs were then ground up, mixed with water and heated. Doing so removed 36 percent of the cobs' pigment content, which was successfully used to dye wool and cotton fabrics.
In the next step of the process, an ethanol mixture was utilized to extract an additional 33 percent of the pigment, which reportedly exhibited antioxidant and anti-inflammatory properties when added to cells in a petri dish. Therefore, the scientists believe that it could find use in nutraceutical supplements.
Finally, when the remaining ground cob material was tested, it was said to be even more absorbent than the corn cob waste presently used in commercial kitty litter. And as added bonus, because the residual anthocyanin in the material was found to have antibacterial qualities, the purple cob waste could conceivably be used in litter that kills bacteria and reduces odors.
The research is described in a paper that was recently published in the journal ACS Sustainable Chemistry & Engineering.
Source: American Chemical Society