Antioxidant activity of betalains from plants of the Amaranthaceae

Yizhong Cai, Mei Sun, Harold Corke*

*Corresponding author for this work

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

528 Scopus citations


Antioxidant activity of betalain pigments (seven pure compounds and four combined fractions) from plants of the family Amaranthaceae was evaluated using the modified DPPH. (1,1-diphenyl-2-picrylhydrazyl) method. All tested betalains exhibited strong antioxidant activity. Their EC50 values ranged from 3.4 to 8.4 μM. Gomphrenin type betacyanins (mean = 3.7 μM) and betaxanthins (mean = 4.2 μM) demonstrated the strongest antioxidant activity, 3-4-fold stronger than ascorbic acid (13.9 μM) and also stronger than rutin (6.1 μM) and catechin (7.2 μM). Antioxidant activity of the tested betalains decreased in the following order: simple gomphrenins > acylated gomphrenins > dopamine-betaxanthin > (S)-tryptophan-betaxanthin > 3-methoxytyramine-betaxanthin > betanin/isobetanin > celosianins > iresinins > amaranthine/isoamaranthine. This study also investigated and discussed the relationship between the chemical structure and the activity of the betalains. The free radical scavenging activity of the betalains usually increased with the numbers of hydroxyl/imino groups and, moreover, depended on the position of hydroxyl groups and glycosylation of aglycones in the betalain molecules.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)2288-2294
Number of pages7
JournalJournal of Agricultural and Food Chemistry
Issue number8
StatePublished - 9 Apr 2003
Externally publishedYes


  • Amaranthaceae
  • Anti-oxidants
  • Antioxidant activity
  • Betacyanins
  • Betalains
  • Betaxanthins
  • Colorants
  • DPPH


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