- Representing the most common flavonoid consumed in the American diet, the flavanols and their polymeric condensation products, the proanthocyanidins, are regarded as functional ingredients in various beverages, whole and processed foods, herbal remedies and supplements. Their presence in food affects food quality parameters including astringency, bitterness, sourness, sweetness, salivary viscosity, aroma, and color formation. The ability of flavonoids to aid food functionality has also been established in terms of microbial stability, foamability, oxidative stability, and heat stability.
Phenolic polymer material of the flavonoid family is of considerable interest in the study of red wine, as phenolic quantity and structure can significantly affect wine quality. Although a considerable amount of the phenolic polymer material extracted into red wine during fermentation can be accounted for and characterized as known compounds, a substantial portion of the material remains uncharacterized. During this investigation phenolic polymer material extracted during commercial red wine fermentations (Vitis vinifera L.cv Pinot noir) was isolated and analyzed in order to characterize its chemical composition. Phenolic polymer isolates were prepared from samples taken throughout fermentation and isolated by adsorption chromatography. Isolates were subjected to phloroglucinolysis to analyze proanthocyanidin amount as well as subunit composition. Investigation results revealed that known proanthocyanidin content of individual phenolic polymer isolates varied from 27 to 54%. Subsequent analyses were performed in order to quantify material other than known proanthocyanidin subunits. Results of all experiments accounted for up to 82% of the phenolic polymer isolates by mass.
Phenolic polymers such as the proanthocyanidins have also become the interest of several investigations due to their potential to provide a variety of health beneficial effects by acting as antioxidant, anticarcinogen, cardiopreventive, antimicrobial, anti-viral, and neuro-protective agents. Such health beneficial effects have been correlated to proanthocyanidin structure-related functionality that allows them to behave as signaling molecules at the molecular level. Consumption of proanthocyanidin rich foods has also reportedly been linked to health detrimental effects including the activation of procarcinogens, reactive oxygen species formation (pro-oxidant activity), hemorrhage formation, hepatotoxicity initiation, pharmacokinetics of therapeutic drug alteration, estrogenic tumor formation, mutagenicity, plasma biochemistry modification, gastroenteritis instigation, antinutritive activity and weight loss.