Phenolic content, antioxidant and antibacterial activity of selected natural sweeteners available on the Polish market

J Environ Sci Health B. 2013;48(12):1089-96. doi: 10.1080/03601234.2013.824236.


Seventeen natural sweeteners available on the Polish market were screened for total phenolic content, by the Folin-Ciocalteu method, and for antioxidant activity, using the ferric reducing antioxidant power (FRAP) assay and the 2,2'-Azinobis (3-ethylbenzthiazoline-6-sulphonic acid) radical cation decolorization assay (ABTS(·+)). In addition, we analyzed antibacterial activities against Staphylococcus aureus strains: both those susceptible and those resistant to methicillin (MRSA). The results of the study showed that total phenolic content, antioxidant activity and antibacterial activity differ widely among different samples of sweeteners. Phenolic content, expressed as a gallic acid equivalent, ranged from 0 mg kg(-1) in white, refined sugar, xylitol and wheat malt syrup to 11.4 g kg(-1) in sugarcane molasses. Antioxidant activity was lowest in refined white sugar, xylitol, brown beet sugar, liquid fructose, and rape honey; it was average in spelt syrup and corn syrup, and highest in sugar cane, beet molasses, date and barley syrups. Despite the great variety of sweeteners, a strong correlation was noted between the concentration of phenolics and antioxidant properties, as determined by the ABTS(·+) method (r = 0.97) and the FRAP assay (r = 0.77). The strongest antibacterial activity was observed in sugarcane molasses, which was lethal to S. aureus strains at 2 and 4% concentrations in medium for susceptible and MRSA strains respectively. Other sweeteners kill bacteria in 6-15% solutions, whereas some did not show any antibacterial activities against S. aureus strains, even at 20% concentrations. Due to their high antioxidant and antibacterial activities, some of the tested sweeteners have potential therapeutic value as supporting agents in antibiotic therapy.

MeSH terms

  • Anti-Bacterial Agents / analysis*
  • Antioxidants / analysis*
  • Microbial Sensitivity Tests
  • Phenols / analysis*
  • Plant Extracts / chemistry*
  • Plants / chemistry*
  • Poland
  • Staphylococcus aureus / drug effects
  • Staphylococcus aureus / growth & development
  • Sweetening Agents / chemistry*


  • Anti-Bacterial Agents
  • Antioxidants
  • Phenols
  • Plant Extracts
  • Sweetening Agents