Oct. 25, 2007 -- Adding capers to meat recipes may have a cancer-fighting nutritional perk, an Italian study shows.
Capers are the buds of the Capparis spinosa plant that are stabilized with brine or salt. Capers, which taste tart, are classic ingredients in their native Mediterranean region.
Italian researchers report that antioxidants in capers may offset oxidation from the digestion of meat. Oxidation can cause DNA damage linked to cancer. Antioxidants, which come in many forms and are found in plants, guard against oxidation.
Researchers including Maria Livrea, PhD, of Italy's Universita di Palermo, studied antioxidants in capers.
Livrea's team brewed their own caper extract from salt-treated Sicilian capers and measured antioxidants in the caper extract.
The scientists then added the caper extract to ground, grilled turkey meat in a test tube, along with fluids similar to those in the stomach. They kept the caper-to-meat ratio in line with typical recipes.
The basic idea was to simulate digestion in a lab while monitoring oxidation from fat in the meat.
Antioxidants in the caper extract hampered the buildup of oxidation by-products from the meat, as well as boosting vitamin E.
Capers "may have beneficial health effects, especially for people whose meals are rich in fats and red meats," Livrea and colleagues write in the Journal of Agricultural and Food Chemistry.