By Karla Arboleda
As one of the top five fermented foods in the United States, pickled cucumbers may be linked to anti-hypertensive qualities.
Researchers at the U.S. Department of Agriculture Agricultural Research Service (USDA ARS) have shown the production of certain bioactive peptides that are known to be anti-hypertensive are in pickled cucumbers.
Suzanne Johanningsmeier, USDA ARS research food technologist, studies what compounds produced during fermentation can account for perceived health benefits.
“We were particularly focused on short chains of amino acids called peptides,” Johanningsmeier said, referring to her collaborative research study on bioactive peptides in pickles conducted in Raleigh, North Carolina. “In general, there’s a wide range of benefits depending on the type of peptide that it is.”
In the study, ARS and North Carolina State University (NCSU) researchers used a new technology developed by the department of chemistry at NCSU called IR-MALDESI mass spectrometry. By applying an infrared laser to see small molecules, Johanningsmeier was able to get a less biased picture of the makeup of salty pickles.
“From that, we were able to see that the fermentation process did actually increase the content of four bioactive peptides that are known to have anti-hypertensive properties,” Johanningsmeier said. “Normally, we’d have to go through extensive sample preparation procedures in order to be able to take a look at their composition.”
By using a controlled fermentation process with brine, salt, calcium, acetic acid and starter cultures, pickles are used for numerous ARS experiments to determine potential benefits. In addition to discovering anti-hypertensive properties, Johanningsmeier hopes to further compare pickled cucumbers to other pickled foods.
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