Lieberman S. The antioxidant power of purple corn Alter Comp Ther. 2007;10:107-110.Purple corn (Zea mays), also known as maize morado in Spanish is the same species as the corn consumed in the United States. Purple corn owes its color to anthocyanins which are colored flavonoids. Blueberries have one of the greatest antioxidant values of any other commercial food plant; yet, the anthocyanin and total phenolic contents for whole purple corn are greater than those for blueberries. In fact, purple corn has 3.8 times the total antiradical-scavenging capacity of blueberries. This review article discusses the potential use of purple corn in terms of cancer research, inflammation and tissue injury, and obesity and diabetes.
Purple corn has demonstrated potential in preventing colon cancer. Studies in rats fed a diet containing 5% percent purple corn revealed that purple corn could suppress lesion development in experimentally induced cancer. The incidence of colorectal carcinogenesis and aberrant crypt foci in these animals was reduced significantly. Other studies have shown a potential antiaging and protective effect against skin cancers, as well as antimutagenic actions. Purple corn demonstrated good potential in preventing UV-Binduced radiation damage to skin cells.
Inflammation and Tissue Injury
Absorbed 3-O-beta-D-glucoside (C3G, the most abundant anthocyanin in purple corn) and/or its metabolites can act as antioxidants in the blood and liver, scavenge the reactive oxygen species. It also decreases neutrophil infiltration into the liver suggesting an important role for purple corn for preventing and reducing inflammation, I/R injury, liver injury, and other tissue damage caused by severe oxidative stress.
Obesity and Diabetes
A high-fat diet can induce hyperglycemia, hyperinsulinemia, and hyperleptinemia. Studies have shown that co-ingestion of dietary purple corn color may ameliorate these responses and result in significantly less obesity. Animals fed a high fat diet had significant suppression of the high fat diet-induced increase in body weight gain, and white and brown adipose tissue weights in mice also fed C3G-rich purple corn color; thus suggesting that dietary PCC may ameliorate HF diet-induced insulin resistance. Furthermore, adipocytes treated with C3G demonstrated enhanced secretion of adiponectin and leptin and upregulation of adipocyte specific gene expression.
According to these authors, the promising data in animal research suggest that purple corn may have beneficial effects in human health. In addition, they suggest that the data confirm many of the traditional health benefits that have been attributed to purple corn. Several animal and in vitro studies demonstrate that purple corn may have good potential as an important novel natural antioxidant source for functional foods and dietary-supplement markets and may prove to be an important antioxidant. However, these finding will need to be substantiated in well-controlled clinical trials.
-Jennifer Minigh, PhD