The antioxidant activity of several honeys was evaluated considering the different contribution of entire samples. The strawberry tree honey emerged as the richest in total phenols and the most active honey in the DPPH and FRAP tests, and could protect cholesterol against oxidative degradation (140°C). Homogentisic acid (2,5-dihydroxyphenylacetic acid, HGA), the main phenolic compound from strawberry tree honey, showed interesting antioxidant and antiradical activities, and protective effect against thermal-cholesterol degradation, comparable to those of well known antioxidants. Moreover, the pre-treatment with HGA significantly preserved liposomes and LDL from Cu(2+)-induced oxidative damage at 37°C for 2h, inhibiting the reduction of polyunsaturated fatty acids and cholesterol and the increase of their oxidative products. This phenol had no toxic effect in human intestinal epithelial Caco-2 cells within the concentration range tested (5-1000μM). HGA was able to pass through the Caco-2 monolayers, the apparent permeability coefficients (Papp) in the apical-to-basolateral and basolateral-to-apical direction were 3.48±1.22×10(-6) and 2.18±0.34×10(-6)cm/s, respectively, suggesting a passive diffusion pathway as the dominating process. The results of the work qualify HGA as natural antioxidant, able to exert a significant in vitro protective effect and to contribute to the strawberry tree honey antioxidant activity.
Keywords: Antioxidant activity; Antiradical activity; Arbutus unedo L. honey; Caco-2; Homogentisic acid.
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