In 1864 Melville Sewell Bagley created Hesperidina, a beverage made from bitter orange peel that became an icon of Argentine liquor stores. This liquor was named after its main component, a flavonoid present in citrus that is used as a freshness indicator in fruit juices. It also has antioxidant effects, in addition to anti-inflammatory, antibacterial and antiviral activity. And for these reasons is frequently used in different pharmaceutical formulations.
Hesperidin is also a natural component of citric juices and contributes to their turbidity. However, it can obstruct the steel tubes in the juice production plants. In order to solve this problem, Javier Breccia, independent researcher of CONICET at the Institute of Earth and Environmental Sciences of La Pampa (INCITAP, CONICET-UNLPam) alongside with his team, developed an enzymatic analytical system to quantify and reduce the levels of flavonoid in juices to solve this problem.
“This new method is based on a new catalyst called diglycosidase, which is a fungal enzyme that breaks down the hesperidin and lightens the juices. The finding if this enzyme led to this innovation that identifies and removes in one step molecules that are bound to two sugars, unlike what occurs in nature, in which the most common form removes one sugar at a time”, Breccia explains.
Furthermore, the action of the enzyme over other molecules releases volatile substances that modify the smell of products of plant origin such as wine, tea or chocolates. These precursors of smell are called rutinosides and can be used to modulate the aromatic profile of the wine. “Currently, we are conducting some trials with the National Institute of Agricultural Technology (INTA) in Mendoza to modify the bouquet of latest wines. This enzyme hydrolyzes certain precursors of vine’s smells; therefore we hope it increases the smell of wines, a characteristic that most consumers expect”, Breccia comments.
This method is compatible with sustainable development and environmental care because the enzymatic reaction performed to eliminate the turbidity during the production of citrus juices is conducted in water, avoiding the use of solvents, chemical substances and high temperatures.
- By Cecilia Leone