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Here’s a scientific discovery fit to give Mr. Potato Head static cling and flyaway hair (if that vintage plastic toy had hair). Scientists today reported discovery of two simple, inexpensive ways of boosting the amounts of healthful antioxidant substances in potatoes. One involves giving spuds an electric shock. The other involves zapping them with ultrasound, high frequency sound waves. Those new insights into improving the nutritional content of one of the Western world’s favorite side dishes were reported today at the 240th National Meeting of the American Chemical Society (ACS), being held here this week. The study was among nearly 8,000 scientific reports scheduled for presentation at the meeting, one of the largest scientific gatherings of 2010.
“We found that treating the potatoes with ultrasound or electricity for 5-30 minutes increased the amounts of antioxidants — including phenols and chlorogenic acid — by as much as 50 percent,” said Kazunori Hironaka, Ph.D., who headed the research. “Antioxidants found in fruits and vegetables are considered to be of nutritional importance in the prevention of chronic diseases, such as cardiovascular disease, various cancers, diabetes, and neurological diseases.”
The ultrasound treatment consisted of immersing whole potatoes in water and subjecting them to ultrasound for 5 or 10 minutes. For the electrical treatment, the scientists immersed potatoes in a salt solution for 10 seconds and subsequently treated the spuds with a small electrical charge for 10, 20, and 30 minutes. The study team then measured antioxidant activity and the phenolic content and concluded that the stresses increased the amount of these compounds. The 5 minutes of ultrasound, for instance, increased polyphenol levels by 1.2 times and other antioxidants by about 1.6 times.