Changes in Phenolic Acid Content in Maize during Food Product Processing

Carrie J. Butts-Wilmsmeyer, Rita H. Mumm, Kent D. Rausch, Gurshagan Kandhola, Nicole A. Yana, Mary M. Happ, Alexandra Ostezan, Matthew Wasmund, Martin O. Bohn

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review


The notion that many nutrients and beneficial phytochemicals in maize are lost due to food product processing is common, but this has not been studied in detail for the phenolic acids. Information regarding changes in phenolic acid content throughout processing is highly valuable because some phenolic acids are chemopreventive agents of aging-related diseases. It is unknown when and why these changes in phenolic acid content might occur during processing, whether some maize genotypes might be more resistant to processing induced changes in phenolic acid content than other genotypes, or if processing affects the bioavailability of phenolic acids in maize-based food products. For this study, a laboratory-scale processing protocol was developed and used to process whole maize kernels into toasted cornflakes. High-throughput microscale wet-lab analyses were applied to determine the concentrations of soluble and insoluble-bound phenolic acids in samples of grain, three intermediate processing stages, and toasted cornflakes obtained from 12 ex-PVP maize inbreds and seven hybrids. In the grain, insoluble-bound ferulic acid was the most common phenolic acid, followed by insoluble-bound p-coumaric acid and soluble cinnamic acid, a precursor to the phenolic acids. Notably, the ferulic acid content was approximately 1950 μg/g, more than ten-times the concentration of many fruits and vegetables. Processing reduced the content of the phenolic acids regardless of the genotype. Most changes occurred during dry milling due to the removal of the bran. The concentration of bioavailable soluble ferulic and p-coumaric acid increased negligibly due to thermal stresses. Therefore, the current dry milling based processing techniques used to manufacture many maize-based foods, including breakfast cereals, are not conducive for increasing the content of bioavailable phenolics in processed maize food products. This suggests that while maize is an excellent source of phenolics, alternative or complementary processing methods must be developed before this nutritional resource can be utilized.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)3378-3385
Number of pages8
JournalJournal of Agricultural and Food Chemistry
Issue number13
StatePublished - Apr 4 2018


  • food processing
  • maize
  • phenolics

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • General Chemistry
  • General Agricultural and Biological Sciences


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