Health Benefits of Purple Corn (Zea mays L.) Phenolic Compounds

Compr Rev Food Sci Food Saf. 2017 Mar;16(2):234-246. doi: 10.1111/1541-4337.12249. Epub 2017 Jan 24.


Purple corn (Zea mays L.), a grain with one of the deepest shades in the plant kingdom, has caught the attention of the food industry as it could serve as a source for alternatives to synthetic colorants. Also being rich in phenolic compounds with potential health-promoting properties, purple corn is becoming a rising star in the novel ingredients market. Although having been widely advertised as a "healthy" food, the available information on purple corn health benefits has not yet been well reviewed and summarized. In this review, we present compositional information focused on the potential functional phenolic compounds correlated to health-promoting effects. Studies evaluating potential health-benefitting properties, including in vitro tests, cell models, animal and human trials, are also discussed. This paper emphasizes research using purple corn, or its extracts, but some other plant sources with similar phenolic composition to purple corn are also mentioned. Dosage and toxicity of purple corn studies are also reviewed. Purple corn phenolic compounds have been shown in numerous studies to have potent antioxidant, anti-inflammatory, antimutagenic, anticarcinogenic, and anti-angiogenesis properties. They were also found to ameliorate lifestyle diseases, such as obesity, diabetes, hyperglycemia, hypertension, and cardiovascular diseases, based on their strong antioxidant power involving biochemical regulation amelioration. With promising evidence from cell and animal studies, this rich source of health-promoting compounds warrants additional attention to better understand its potential contributions to human health.

Keywords: anthocyanins; antioxidants; bioactive compounds; dosage; phenolics.