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Health Benefits of Jaggery
Jaggery – A Traditional Indian Sweetener

Jaggery is the sugarcane based traditional Indian sweetener. At present, 24.5% of the cane produced in India is being utilized for producing jaggery. Jaggery is nutritious and easily available to the rural people. Compared to white sugar, it requires low capital requirement in production and is manufactured at the farmer’s individual units itself. Of the total world production, more than 70% of the jaggery is produced in India. To meet the future sweetener requirement, the scope of jaggery seems to be promising.

Food Chemistry

Apart from the nutritional and sweetening aspects of sugars,very little has been studied on their nutraceutical role. The interest in polyphenols, including flavonoids and phenolic acids, has considerably increased in recent years because of their possible role in the prevention of oxidative stress induced diseases such as cardiovascular complications, diabetes, ulcers and cancer

Jaggery is the main source of sugar in rural India and has been considered by many Ayurveda practitioners as a wholesome sugar. Indian Ayurvedic medicine considers jaggery to be beneficial in treating throat and lung infections. Sahu and Saxena (1994) have found that jaggery can prevent lung damage from particulate matter such as coal and silica dust in rats. However, there are no reports available in the literature on cytoprotective abilities of jaggery and other sugars and their comparative. Hence, in the present investigation, the protective effect of jaggery in comparison with white, refined and brown sugars on free radical induced damage of NIH 3T3 fibroblasts, erythrocytes and DNA were assessed in addition to 1,1­diphenyl­2­picrylhydrazyl (DPPH) radical scavenging ability and reducing power. Further, the total phenol content and various phenolic acids present in these sugars were also determined.

Results
Total phenol content

Total phenolic content as quantified by Folin–Ciocalteu method indicated higher total phenolics in jaggery followed by brown, white and refined sugars. Approximately 10­fold higher phenolic content was observed in jaggery (3837 lg GAE/g) compared to brown sugar (372 lg GAE/g). The total phenolic content of white and refined sugars was found to be 31.5 and 26.5 lg GAE/g, respectively.

Cytoprotective effect of jaggery and other sugars on NIH 3T3 fibroblasts

The cytoprotective effect of jaggery, white, refined and brown sugars on NIH 3T3 fibroblasts indicated 97% protection by jaggery at 4 mg/ml concentration against tert­butyl hydroperoxide induced cell death. However, white and refined sugars showed very less activity and were not statistically significant.

Antioxidant activities of jaggery and other sugars

The free radical scavenging ability of sugars as evaluated by DPPH scavenging model system indicated free radical scavenging ability of jaggery, brown, white and refined sugars. Both, jaggery and brown sugars showed free radical scavenging ability. In addition, reducing power of jaggery and other sugars was also evaluated by their ability to reduce ferric chloride and potassium ferricyanide complex. At 20 mg/ml concentration and absorbance unit of 2.66 and 0.248 was observed for jaggery. DNA protective ability of jaggery and other sugars was evaluated on lambda phage DNA oxidation. As evidenced by gel documentation analysis, higher protection (70%) was observed in jaggery treated samples, while 31%, 15% and 18% protection was observed for brown, white and refined sugar treated samples, respectively.

Discussion

The different techniques used in cane processing to remove colour and impurities affect the amount of polyphenols in different sugars and this may explain the low phenolic content of white and refined sugars. Further, both jaggery and brown sugar indicated cytoprotective abilities against tert­butyl hydroperoxide and hydrogen peroxide induced oxidative damage of NIH 3T3 fibroblasts and human erythrocytes, respectively. Since sucrose is a non reducing sugar, it is less obvious to have free radical quenching abilities and protect cells from oxidative damage. Hence, the cytoprotective ability may be attributed to the presence of polyphenolic components in jaggery.

The antioxidant activity as evaluated by DPPH radical scavenging ability, reducing power and protection to DNA damage induced by hydroxyl radicals also showed the dominant antioxidant potential of the jaggery.

In all the experiments, white and refined sugars showed low activity and almost negligible in case of erythrocyte oxidation, reducing power and DPPH radical scavenging assays. But in general, the use of white and refined sugar is more preferred than brown sugar and jaggery because of their colour as well as purity. From our investigation, the presence of cytoprotective and antioxidant activity in jaggery and brown sugar may encourage their use for sweetening as well as for nutraceutical benefits.

Health Effects of Non­Centrifugal Sugar

Non­centrifugal sugar (NCS), the technical name of the product obtained by evaporating the water in sugar cane juice, is known by many different names in the world, the most important being unrefined muscovado, whole cane sugar, panela (Latin America), jaggery (South Asia) and kokuto (Japan). Scientific research has been confirming that NCS has multiple health effects but it is still practically outside the current focus on functional foods and nutriceuticals. 46 academic publications have been identified which reports them. The highest frequency is immunological effects (26%), followed by anti­toxicity and cytoprotective effects (22%), anticariogenic effects (15%) and diabetes and hypertension effects (11%). Some of these effects can be traced to the presence of Fe and Cr, and others are suggested to be caused by antioxidants.

The antioxidant activity as evaluated by DPPH radical scavenging ability, reducing power and protection to DNA damage induced by hydroxyl radicals also showed the dominant antioxidant potential of the jaggery.

In all the experiments, white and refined sugars showed low activity and almost negligible in case of erythrocyte oxidation, reducing power and DPPH radical scavenging assays. But in general, the use of white and refined sugar is more preferred than brown sugar and jaggery because of their colour as well as purity. From our investigation, the presence of cytoprotective and antioxidant activity in jaggery and brown sugar may encourage their use for sweetening as well as for nutraceutical benefits.

Homa Therapy (The Ancient Science of Healing)
Scientific study of Vedic Knowledge Agnihotra
Jaggery – A Traditional Indian Sweetener
Cytoprotective and antioxidant activity studies of jaggery sugar
Health Effects of Non-Centrifugal Sugar (NCS): A Review