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Researchers at Jacobs University discover new chemical compound class in fruit and vegetables

Prof. Dr. Nikolai Kuhnert

June 20, 2018

They are found in nightshade plants such as potatoes, eggplant, paprika and chilis, but also in numerous berries, in particular in gooseberries, as well as in strawberries and currants. Scientists at Jacobs University under chemistry professor Dr. Nikolai Kuhnert have discovered a new class of caffeic acid derivatives and, at the same time, developed a method for elucidating their structure. These natural substances were detected in about 70 percent of all food plants researched.

Caffeic acid derivatives are an important component of coffee and have a positive effect on human health. Among other things, they contribute to the reduction of diabetes and cardiovascular diseases. These compounds are found not only in coffee but also in almost all types of fruit and vegetables. Chemically they are always bound to quinic acid and are also called chlorogenic acids.

“We had suspected for some time that there was something else besides chlorogenic acids,” says Kuhnert. And in fact, scientists discovered a derivative, i.e. a similarly structured substance, that is bound to glucose. Detailed studies and quantifications of these compounds were performed in 20 different berries and nightshade plants. Almost all of these foods contained the new compound class. Its exact synthesis and structure is explained in several recently published scientific papers.

The areas of application arising from the discovery are yet to be ascertained. “It can be assumed that the compound class has health effects similar to those known from coffee,” says Kuhnert, who attests to its “very, very great potential”. “We’ve made a start,” he says. The next step is to research the effect of the new compound class.

Patras, M. A.; Jaiswal, R.; Kuhnert, N., Profiling and quantification of regioisomeric caffeoyl glucoses in Solanaceae vegetables. Food Chemistry 2017, 237, 659-666.
Patras, M. A.; Jaiswal, R.; McDougall, G. J.; Kuhnert, N., Profiling and Quantification of Regioisomeric Caffeoyl Glucoses in Berry Fruits. Journal of Agricultural and Food Chemistry 2018, 66 (5), 1096-1104.

Questions will be answered by:
Prof. Dr. Nikolai Kuhnert | Professor of Chemistry
n.kuhnert [at] | Tel.: +49 421 200-3120