Numerous attempts have been made to relate the free radical scavenging capacity of compounds to their antioxidant activity in foods even though antioxidant activity is dependent on both physical and chemical properties. The objective of this study was to compare the free radical scavenging activity of various compounds to their ability to inhibit lipid oxidation in foods. The order of free radical scavenging activity of polar compounds was ferulic acid > coumaric acid > propyl gallate > gallic acid > ascorbic acid as determined by a modified oxygen radical absorbance capacity, while the order of nonpolar compounds was rosmarinic acid > butylated hydroxytoluene >or= tert-butylhydroquinone (TBHQ) > alpha-tocopherol as determined by the 2,2-diphenyl-1-picrylhydrazyl assay. Of these compounds, only propyl gallate and TBHQ were found to inhibit lipid oxidation in cooked ground beef as determined by thiobarbituric acid reactive substances, while only propyl gallate, TBHQ, gallic acid, and rosmarinic acid inhibited lipid oxidation in an oil-in-water emulsion as determined by lipid hydroperoxides and headspace hexanal. These data indicate that the free radical scavenging assays tested have limited value in predicting the antioxidant activity in complex foods.
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