Proteins can inhibit lipid oxidation by biologically designed mechanisms (e.g. antioxidant enzymes and iron-binding proteins) or by nonspecific mechanisms. Both of these types of antioxidative proteins contribute to the endogenous antioxidant capacity of foods. Proteins also have excellent potential as antioxidant additives in foods because they can inhibit lipid oxidation through multiple pathways including inactivation of reactive oxygen species, scavenging free radicals, chelation of prooxidative transition metals, reduction of hydroperoxides, and alteration of the physical properties of food systems. A protein's overall antioxidant activity can be increased by disruption of its tertiary structure to increase the solvent accessibility of amino acid residues that can scavenge free radicals and chelate prooxidative metals. The production of peptides through hydrolytic reactions seems to be the most promising technique to form proteinaceous antioxidants since peptides have substantially higher antioxidant activity than intact proteins. While proteins and peptides have excellent potential as food antioxidants, issues such as allergenicity and bitter off-flavors as well as their ability to alter food texture and color need to be addressed.
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