Tuesday, September 14, 2010

Antioxidant Comparison of ORAC Value per Price

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What good is an antioxidant if the price far exceeds its benefit? Well, I decided to take it upon myself to do an analysis of antioxidant strength and compare to the price. Perhaps someday there will be on package labels (hint-hint for new concept), antioxidant value per price. But until that time, read on and inspect the chart I made below.

In making comparisons of antioxidants per price, there needs first to be a reference of the antioxidant strength for each item under comparison. Luckily, data exists of a popular antioxidant test resulting in an ORAC value for many food items. The ORAC value alone does not help the consumer unless it is also compared with the price. In this way consumers could make a better assessment on buying this type of supplement. Companies push products highlighting potent antioxidant properties but fail to make valid comparisons based on price. So, whether it is bee pollen, pycnogenol, grape seed extract, or acai berry extract that is being advertised, you now have a way to make a simple comparison.

Food ItemORAC Value/100gLow Retail PricePrice/100gORAC Value/Price
Bee Pollen250K$12/pound$2.6595K
Oregano200K$2.59/3 oz$3.0167K
Cocoa Powder, unsweetened81K$5.32/12 oz$1.5452K
Ascorbic Acid (Vit C)190K$18/pound$3.9726K
Grapeseed Extract1,500K*$20/180X180mg$61.7024K
Acai Berry, freeze-dried100K$210/5 pounds$9.2611K
Goji Berries25K$12/pound$2.659.6K
White Sorghum2.2K$53/23 pounds$0.504.4K
Krill Oil38K$27/60X1000mg$450.84K

*ORAC values for grape seed extract and pycnogenol are estimates being that the antioxidant strength is so high, even though test data suggest for certain different grape seed extracts that ORAC values of about 1.9 million and 1.5 million have been determined. For the assay certificate of a specific grapeseed extract see: High ORAC
Grapeseed Extract
. To be on the safe side and to account for differences in lots, the 1.5 million value will be used. The composition of pycnogenol differs from grape seed extract yet contain similar if not a few overlapping polyphenolic compounds and since ORAC values for pycnogenol is not readily available, the ORAC value assumed for pycnogenol will be the same as for grape seed extract. Even if the actual ORAC values were 2 times higher, the ORAC value per price would still fall below that of cocoa powder. This is where the intent of the chart above puts perspective in substances that are exclaimed to be powerful antioxidants.

The price for grape seed extract at this time appears to be much higher than what is probably reflected in the cost of production. This is likely because of the hype surrounding antioxidants to take advantage of consumers. For example, on alibaba’s website, there is a distributor in China able to supply 10 metric tons per month and at a cost of only $20-30/kg. It certainly makes no sense that the retail price would be 30 times the wholesale price but unless people shop around and give their business only to the lowest priced retailer, secondary distributors and retailers would have little motivation to lower their prices.

The ORAC value for sumac bran is about 4 times that of whole sumac. However it is not so easy to locate sumac and so concentrating on buying the bran of sumac would be quite a task. Even if sumac bran was found, the cost may outweigh the benefit since it would require more difficulty in processing. Until which time sumac bran commands a higher demand, bran products will be limited to more common grains such as wheat and rice. The bran is merely the outer layer of the sumac berry but for ordinary processing, the entire berry is ground. The spice really should be inexpensive as noticed in a photo of an herb shop in Turkey having the price of ground sumac the same as for mint. But where cultures are not in high demand of an item, the price will tend to be high. Note that sumac is grown in North America as well and so if the price is high, you know why it is. The source I am providing is 3 times less expensive than other places I have seen, so unless you do your research, you will be ripped off. But it’s still not the bran!

Similar for sumac bran, sorghum bran is not readily available. The wholesale price for sorghum is around $200 per metric ton so it is not so expensive until, of course, it makes it to the retail market. From http://oracvalues.com, it can be seen from the list below that sorghum bran has 3 to 5 times more antioxidant activity than whole sorghum and the varieties thereof have vastly differing ORAC values which would make it rather arduous to put into the above chart. However, since it appears only the white sorghum is readily available in the United States most of the work is cut out for intentions of this web page. Since white sorghum has such an appalling low ORAC value, it makes it look bad for sorghum but if high ORAC sorghum varieties ever becomes readily available it would score much higher in the above price comparison chart. Nevertheless, white sorghum still provides an apparent 5 times greater antioxidant value than krill oil.

Sorghum variety ORAC Value
Sorghum, bran, black 100,000
Sorghum, bran, hi-tannin 240,000
Sorghum, bran, red 71,000
Sorghum, bran, white 6,400
Sorghum, grain, black 22,000
Sorghum, grain, hi-tannin 45,000
Sorghum, grain, red 14,000
Sorghum, grain, white 2,200

The ORAC value for fresh oregano is 14 times less than that of dried oregano. This no doubt has lots to do with the water content of fresh oregano to lessen its antioxidant strength relative to weight. Since dried oregano has a long shelf life and is commonly available this will be the form used in making the ORAC per price comparison. Of course one could grow oregano at home with minimal space and thus the antioxidant value per price would be off the chart! A 3 oz. size would be amenable to an ordinary purchase though if really into it or if having a restaurant, a 2 pound size could be purchased at half the price per weight of the 3 oz size. Furthermore 20 pound size is also available for yet another halving of the price per weight of the 2 pound size. You can go right on up the weight category but if you can't use so much it becomes meaningless to consider. Two pounds of dried whole oregano leaves is bulky but if this size applies to certain consumers, it would rank just below cinnamon in the above chart.

The ORAC value per price chart shows that the potency of antioxidant strength is meaningless unless compared to the price. Under this comparison, cinnamon clearly stands out. Turmeric and bee pollen are distant followers. A few antioxidants that are pushed in advertising as being so wonderful actually are not so good in value for the money. Ground cloves and ground nutmeg are purposely not included in this analysis since although they both possess high antioxidant activity, their toxicities preclude using in significant quantities and thus it would be prudent to limit use of these spices in small amounts consistent with how they are normally used in prepared foods. Note that the ORAC values are based on a specific test that does not determine a complete profile of antioxidant action but it does serve as a basis to make a comparison possible. The prices were researched on the internet to a point of satisfaction but if someone finds better prices, I welcome it to update the chart.

There may be properties of various antioxidants that are not characterized by the ORAC value alone. One obvious example is that an antioxidant not containing vitamin C will not supply this necessary vitamin. There may be heightened cancer-fighting properties for some antioxidants and so, again, the ORAC value alone would not supply this information. Grapeseed extract for example shows some promise to treat leukemia: Leukaemia cells killed by grape seed extract. Pycnogenol apparently has some special properties, purportedly even able to play a role in treatment of erectile dysfunction along with a host of other maladies: Pycnogenol Research Summary.

References (last update February 2011):
ORAC Values Database

Cinnamon powder at $3.30/pound:
Cinnamon Price Reference

Additionally, I am currently using a bottle of "Encore" brand cinnamon, packaged for Big Lots Stores, priced at 48 cents for 2.47oz ($3.11/pound) though this price may not be currently available, and at the west coast store, The Grocery Outlet, I just recently purchased cinnamon at the price of $1.69 for 8oz ($3.38/pound).

Ground sumac at $4.99/pound:
Sumac Price Reference

White sorghum flour at $3.00/22 oz
Small Quantity White Sorghum Flour Price Reference

White sorghum grain at $53/23 pounds:
Large Quantity White Sorghum Grain Price Reference

Pycnogenol at $12.95 for 120X100mg= $108/100g
Pycnogenol Price Reference

Oregano at $2.59/3oz:
Oregano Price Reference

Cocoa powder, unsweetened at $5.32/12oz:
Cocoa Powder, unsweetened Price Reference

Turmeric at $6.03/pound:
Turmeric Price Reference


From having a thorough understanding of mathematics in the sciences, even though the industry is filled with scientific-minded people who often use an excessive amount of significant digits, I am putting confidence in ORAC values at no greater than 2 significant figures as the tests and variation of samples would not be amenable to any more than this. If you see more significant digits used elsewhere it is because of reporting test results without taking the effort to round-off the results per the known limitations. Far too many significant digits are normally reported in just about every area but should especially not be done in scientific disciplines. I developed a Microsoft Excel add-in function in 1996 to address this issue and may allow a free download of it soon via my handiwork page).

I was formerly a scientist whose accomplishments are limited by interference always by company human resource personnel as I guess they can't figure out how to apply salary compensation based on performance as opposed to pigeon-holing based on their blind-sighted concept that it should be based on formal education. I happen to be largely self-learned in the sciences and that's not readily recognized but my supervisors were pleased by my results, even if they didn't want or expect me to accomplish what I did for them anyway - I don't set small limits on myself like they may of me or of themselves. I know this additional dialog is not so pertinent to this page but it is a huge socio-economic problem. You may consult my resume of qualifications that suggests possessing the capability of proposing effective solutions to a vast number of problems in this country here: quals2lead. The ability to excel is not dependent on how much time is spent sitting in a classroom nor how much is paid in education costs to be able to say you are a 'somebody'. I performed among other things, extracted phenolic compounds from grape juice, synthesized 4-O'-methyl-epigallocatechin, developed and improved existing HPLC assays for catechins and polyphenolic compounds, improved analytical extraction methods of polyphenolic compounds from blood plasma, and so much more.