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Characterization of Colorants Formed by Non-Enzymatic Browning Reactions of Hydroxycinnamic Acid Derivatives

Bork, Leon Valentin; Rohn, Sascha; Kanzler, Clemens

The browning of plant-based food is commonly understood to result from the enzymatic polymerization of phenolic compounds to pigments, called melanin. However, during the thermal treatment of food, enzymes are deactivated, and non-enzymatic reactions predominate. The extent of the contribution of phenolic compounds to these non-enzymatic reactions has been speculated (“melanin-like vs. melanoidin-like”), but the literature is limited. Therefore, the aim of the present study was to investigate the heat-induced reactions of caffeic acid (CA), para-coumaric acid (CS), ferulic acid (FA), hydrocaffeic acid (HC), and 5-O-caffeoylquinic acid (CGA) under dry conditions. The model systems were characterized by color formation, reactant conversion, and antioxidant properties. Reaction products were analyzed by high-resolution mass spectrometry (HRMS) and nuclear magnetic resonance (NMR) spectroscopy. Decarboxylation could be classified as the driving force for the observed color formation and was significantly impacted by the substitution of the aromatic system. Reaction products were found to contribute to an increase in the antioxidant properties of the model systems. The oligomers described in this study could be incorporated into food melanoidins, contributing to the color and antioxidant properties observed in roasted food rich in phenolic compounds, such as coffee or cocoa.
Published in: Molecules, 10.3390/molecules27217564, MDPI