40th Mid-Atlantic Regional Meeting of the American Chemical Society


May 17–21, 2008 at Queensborough Community College, Bayside, NY


Sugarcane extract--an Excellent Phytochemical Functional Foods  


Chung-Chi Chou*, president, Dr Chou Technologies, Inc. New York, USA


E-mail: Drchouusa@esugartech.com   Website: www.esugartech.com


Wen-Hong Gao, associate professor, South China University of Technology, China


E-mail: gaowh@scut.edu.cn

  (I) Antioxidants as functional foods      
  Recent research has demonstrated the relationship between the aging process and the damaging effects of free radicals on tissue cells, and the beneficial impact on blood plasma antioxidant capacity of the increased daily intake of antioxidant-rich foods.   
  The Oxygen Radical Absorbance Capacity (ORAC), a quantitative method of measuring the antioxidant activity of plasma, foods, natural extracts, etc. has become a standard, although not unique, method to quantify the antioxidant property. It was developed by USDA research laboratories over 10 years ago (1, 2, 3), and since has then been used to rank (ORAC units/100g) common foods. ORAC values, in mmole TE, Trolox (a soluble analogue of Vitamin E, used as a standard) equivalents per 100 g are available in the literature  (Table 1) for a number of common fruits, vegetables and other antioxidant rich food supplements (4). An ACS symposium (2nd International Congress on Antioxidant Methods) in June, 2005 in Orlando was dedicated to review antioxidant testing procedures and promote efforts to unify the research and industry.  

Table 1: Antioxidant properties (ORAC values in mmole TE/100 g) of various high-antioxidant fruits and vegetables










Red grapes







Prunes (5,770), raisins (2,830), and blueberries (2,400) top the list, trailed by such health food industry favorites as kale (1,770), spinach (1,260).


* Chung Chi Chou, Director/Visiting professor: International R&D Center, South China Univ. Of Technology. Contributing Author/Editor: 12th edition, "Cane Sugar Handbook" and
1st edition, "Handbook of Sugar Refining", both published by John Wiley & Sons, Inc. USA.


(II) Antioxidants from sugarcane extract


As we entered the 21st century, the sugar industry found itself at a cross road facing many difficult challenges: nutritional values of sugar under attack; uncertainty in governmental sugar programs; environmental pressure; global competition (WTO, NAFTA); and a new economy in which the only Constant is “change”.  We must change with business environment and needs if we are going to survive and prosper in this new millennium. One of the obvious needs for the sugar industry is to derive additional revenue from sugar cane processing, e.g. development of value added products with dietary supplement value and/or Pharmaceutical function such as antioxidants.


Sugar color fractions are known to include naturally occurring phenolics and their reaction products (5). A number of naturally occurring pigment in sugar cane was identified to have known phytochemicals (6) such as: Chlorogenic acid, Caffeic acid, p-Hydroxy cinnamic acid (p-coumaric acid), 4-Hydroxy-3-methoxy-cinmamic acid (ferulic acid), 4-Hydroxy3,5-dimethoxy-cinnamic acid (sinapic acid), 7-Hydroxycoumarin (umbelliferone), Kaempferol. These components are known to exhibit antioxidants activities. It is not surprising that the antioxidant capacity of some sugar products were found to correlates very well with their color (7) as the high antioxidant polyphenol components form a large part of the sugarcane color bodies.


(III) Correlation between cane juice colorants and its ORAC unit



In recent publications (7, 8), the ORAC analysis was performed on a series of sugarcane products with the results ranging from some 5,000 (ORAC units/100g dried solids) to over 35,000, indicating strong antioxidant properties, comparable, if not superior, to those previously reported for the top-antioxidant-rich fruits.


Antioxidants in concentrated sugarcane extracts obtained from cane juice, using the Cti process, to be described in the later section, was found to contain over one million ORAC units/100g dried solids (7, 8).  Table 2 below shows analysis of antioxidant for three extracts: two from USA cane factories and one from a Chinese sugar factory.  Besides ORAC units, analysis was also performed on polyphenols and cathechin.  The % of polyphenols is comparable to that of grape seeds extract. The much higher ORAC results in the china sample can be attributed to the much darker cane juice from which the antioxidants was extracted.


Table 2: Antioxidant analysis of sugarcane extract


ORAC unit on dried basis, other on samples as received basis at 67 brix


Extracts (origin)

ORAC unit/100 grams

Polyphenols %

Total cathechin %

#1 (USA)

1.26 million



#2 (USA)

1.36 million



#3 (China)

2.61 million




These ORAC capacities are comparable to such well known antioxidants as caffeic and gallic acids, and exceeds that of many existing commercial antioxidant supplements. A 250 mg capsule of above  product would satisfy the daily recommended intake of 3,000 ORAC units (9) considered as minimum to sufficiently increase the serum antioxidant levels.


Table 3 below indicates that the antioxidants capacity of the extract is 25 time more concentrated then the sugar cane syrup from which the antioxidant is extracted. This is because that all the sugar content and ash in the syrup were removed/elimimated during the extraction process.


Table 3: Antioxidants capacity of a sugarcane syrup and its extract


 (ORAC per 100 grams dried solid)


Sugarcane syrup              48,930


Its extract                    1,232,000


(IV) Heat stability of sugarcane extract/antioxidant


To study the heat stability of antioxidant capacities of sugar cane extract, the ORAC of a sugarcane syrup was measured before and after heating the syrup for 5 hours at 98o C in a glass container. Table 4 below indicates that there is no change in ORAC upon heat treatment of the syrup.


Table 4: Effect of heating on antioxidant capacity (ORAC/100 g. dried solid)


Before heating                 35,500


After heating                    35,000


(V) Beneficial physiological functions of sugar cane abstract


In two Japanese studies published in 2001 and 2002 Sugar Technologists Technical Proceedings (10, 11), sugarcane extracts were found to have many other beneficial physiological functions as shown below:


(1)     Phylactic Effects (promotion of resistance against virial and bacterial infections)


(2)     Vaccine Adjuvant Effect (stimulates the immune response and increase effectiveness of the vaccine)


(3)     Protection Effects on liver injuries


(4)     Antioxidative Activities


(5)     Enhanced Growth of animal

        (6)  Anti-coccidial infection in chickens  

(VI) Application of sugarcane extract/antioxidants in functional food products

  The following are examples of the use of antioxidants in food formulation/application.  
        (a)  Antioxidant as dietary daily supplement    

Based on USDA scientists a daily requirement of 4,000 ORAC is needed.

Concentrated sugarcane extract contains 12,000 ORAC/g

1 gram = 3 capsules (soft gels)

1 kilo of antioxidant extract will make 3,000 capsules of 4,000 ORAC.  It has been estimated that the market price of the antioxidant from the sugar cane may be as high as US$ 60/Kg.


1 gram of concentrated antioxidant also contains about 250 mg of polyphenols

Each capsule would therefore contain about 80 mg of polyphenols.  This is comparable to grape seed extract.


(b)     Antioxidant fortified/enriched dietary syrup


Add antioxidant into edible molasses to make 1,500 ORAC per table spoon (15 ml).  One table spoon a day will meet about 40% of daily requirement.


(c)     Antioxidant fortified/enriched soft brown sugar


1 Kg antioxidant to mix with 3,000 lbs of soft brown sugar.  This will make a soft sugar fortified with 4,000 ORAC/lb of sugar.


(VII) Extraction  of Antioxidants from Sugarcane (referred to as Cti Process, patented in China, patent pending in India).

  The extraction process includes the following steps:    

(a)      Decolorization of clear liquor, and removal of antioxidants, being part of colorants, by filtering through an adsorbents resin.  The decolorized and antioxidants depleted clear liquor is returned back to the factory for crystallization to produce various food sugar products.

(b)     Recovery of antioxidants from and regeneration of, adsorbent resin by washing the resin with aqueous sodium hydroxide solutions, etc., producing antioxidant extract solution containing color, antioxidants, sodium and hydroxyl ions.

(c)     Removal of sodium and hydroxyl ions by filtering the above antioxidant extract solution through cationic exchange resins, producing antioxidant enriched functional food products.

(d)     Regeneration/reactivation of spent cationic exchange resins by passing hydrochloric acid solution through spent cationic exchange resins.


The yield of antioxidants range from 0.01% to 0.02% on the weight of cane depending on the color of feed material to the Cti process.


The use of adsorbent resin in studies of the nature of sugar colorants, for decolorization, and for extraction of antioxidants has been previously reported (12, 13, 14)


(a) Laboratory scale


Adsorbent resins from two different suppliers were tested. In each case, one inch diameter and three feet height single glass column were used following the above section VII procedure. The extraction basically is a decolorization/color adsorption process. Experimental parameters were recorded as follow:


Test 1. – Extraction of Antioxidant from Sugar Cane Syrup


Adsorbent:  Vendor A


Feed:  Louisiana Sugar Cane Syrup, pH 6.2, Brix 46.5, Color 8,400 ICU






% Decolorization
































** Normalized to 35 Brix


The above test results indicate that the decolorization capacities of resins vary significantly depending on the suppliers. It is obvious that the higher the syrup feed color, the higher the recoverable antioxidants.


After the resin was exhausted, the column was water washed until the effluent was practically free of sugar. 1.5 % of NaOH solution was used to desorb or strip off colorants/antioxidant from resin. The NaOH was then neutralized and removed from the eluent by an acidic resin producing extract /antioxidant products free of ash/inorganic matter. The diluted extract was evaporated to 67 brix. Reference 15 give the detail procedure for extraction of antioxidant from CMS, a fermentation waste from production of Mono sodium glutamate. Same procedure applies for extraction of antioxidants from sugar colorants containing aqueous solution.


(b) Pilot plant  


Figure 1 is the schematic of a three columns pilot unit installed in a sugar mill in Taiwan. To fully utilize the resin adsorption capacity and to maximize the production, two columns are operated in series and the 3rd column is for recovery of antioxidants and for regeneration of resin, and stand-by. There is an acidic column for neutralization and ash removal. The column size is about one foot diameter and six feet height holding 28 liters of resin.  The flow rate was 84 liters per hour (3 bed volume/hr). The system treated about 2 tons of juice a day. Since the sugar mill had a very short cane grinding season, only 16 liters of 67 brix pure antioxidant was produced for this crop season.




ORAC analyses and useful comments are gratefully acknowledged of Dr. Rama Rathnam, Director, Genox Corporation, 1414 Key Highway, Baltimore, MD 21230.


References Cited


(1) Cao, G, H. M. Alession and R. G. Cutler, Oxygen-radical absorbance capacity assay for antioxidants, Free Radical Biology and Medicine, Vol. 14, 303 – 311, 1993.

(2) Cao, G, C. P. Verdon, A. H. B. Wu, H. Wang and R. L. Prior, Automated essay of oxygen radical absorbance capacity with the COBAS FARA II, Clin. Chem., 41/12, 1738 – 1744, 1995.

(3) Genox, Oxygen Radical Absorption Capacity Assay for measuring antioxidant activity, ORAC Corporation, October 2001.

(4) Weller, K. Can foods forestall aging, Agricultural Research, February 1999

(5) R. Riffer, Nonsugars and sugar refining, Chapter 36, “Handbook of Sugar refining” by C.C. Chou, john Wiley & Sons, Inc 2000.

(6) L. Farber and F.G.. Carpenter, proceeding Technical Session Cane Sugar Refining research, Boston, 1970.

(7) Saksa and Chou, Antioxidant Properties of Sugarcane Extracts, First Biennial World Conference on Recent Development in Sugar Technologies, May 16-17, 2002, Florida, USA.

(8) Koge, Saska and Chou, Asian Functional Food, 2005, Taylor & Francis Group, New York, Chapter 15, P 411 to 432.

(9) Prior, R. L. and G. Cao, Variability in dietary antioxidant related natural product supplements: The need for methods standardization. Journal of the American Nutraceutical Association, Vlo. 2, No. 2, 46 – 56, 1999.

(10) Nagai, Mizutani and Iwabe, 2002 Physiological Functions of Sugarcane Extracts.  Proc. Sugar Ind. Technol.  pp 97-104

(11) Koge, Nagai, Ebashi and Ewabe, Physiological Functions of Sugarcane Extracts-Growth Promotion, 2002.  Proc. Sugar Ind. Technol.  pp 285-292

(12) Chou and Rizzuto, The acidic Nature of Sugar Colorants, Proceedings of the1972 Technical Session On Cane Sugar Refining Research, Agricultural Research Service, U. S. D. A.

(13) Rothchild, Decolorization by Adsorption with A non-Functional Resin, 1993 Proc. Sugar Ind. Technol. pp 305-324.

(14) Chou and Kwok, Direct Production of Refined Sugar and Value Added Products from Sugar Cane Mills, Sugar Industry Technologists Sixty Third (63) Annual Technical Conference.

(15) Gao, Chou and Yang, Value added functional foods from CMS and cane molasses Sugar Industry Technologists Sixty Six (66) Annual Technical Conference.