Besides providing hard cider with organoleptic benefits, like bitterness and astringency, phenolic compounds can provide valuable health benefits. The old adage of an apple a day keeps the doctor away has a lot of truth to it. Many studies have shown the healthful benefits derived from the moderate consumption of red wine. These health benefits are linked to the phenolic compounds found in the wine. These are the same types of phenolics found in apples, especially the peel. One of the key phenolic compounds found in apples and hard cider is proanthocyanidins. These are also known as condensed tannins or polymerized phenolics. What we often just call tannins.
Phenolic compounds, often catechin and epicatechin, form the building block of proanthocyanidins(1). Anthocyanins are formed from sugar binding with anthocyanidins. They are linked to the color of fruit. Anthocyanins increase during the final ripening stage while proanthocyanidins decrease. These two compounds are closely linked and both are produced through common flavonoid pathways using the same metabolites. Proanthocyanidins can be astringent, bitter, sweet, colorful, and aromatic. Anthocyanins tend to be less astringent and bitter because of the sugar compound included in them.
Ultimately, proanthocyanidins provide protective and therapeutic benefits to humans. They have been shown to be antioxidants, cardioprotective, neuroprotective, immunomodulatory, and antidiabetic, anticancer, and antimicrobial(1). Oxidative stress is one of the primary reason for cell injury and a primary cause of inflammation, which proanthocyanidins are known to suppress. Recent studies show proanthocyanidins can suppress amyloid-beta production, which is linked to Alzheimer’s disease. Their antioxidant properties also help reduce vascular disease in diabetes and the uncontrolled cell growth that causes cancer. Add their antimicrobial properties, and they also assist in reducing the cell viability of human pathogens like listeria. This supports the idea of actively including phenolic compounds, like proanthocyanidins and the compounds that form them, in your daily diet. It’s another good reason to seek cider apples high in phenolics or include peels in your primary ferment.
(1) A. Rauf and associates, Proanthocyanidins: A comprehensive review, Biomedicine & Pharmacotherapy, 116, 2019
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