Antioxidant effectiveness of organically and non-organically grown red oranges in cell culture systems



Consumers consider plant food products from organic origin healthier than the corresponding conventional plant foods. Clear experimental evidence supporting this assumption is still lacking.

Aim of the study

To determine if the organic red oranges have a higher phyto–chemical content (i. e., phenolics, anthocyanins and ascorbic acid), total antioxidant activity and in vitro bioactivity, in terms of protective effect against oxidative damage at cellular level, than nonorganic red oranges.


Total phenolics were measured using the Folin Ciocalteau assay, while total anthocyanins and ascorbic acid levels were determined by spectrophotometric and HPLC analysis, respectively. In addition, the total antioxidant activity of red orange extracts was measured by the ABTS•+ test. The ability of red orange extracts to counteract conjugated diene containing lipids and free radical production in cultured rat cardiomyocytes and differentiated Caco–2 cells, respectively, was assessed.


Organic oranges had significantly higher total phenolics, total anthocyanins and ascorbic acid levels than the corresponding non–organic oranges (all p < 0.05). Moreover, the organic orange extracts had a higher total antioxidant activity than non–organic orange extracts (p < 0.05). In addition, our results indicate that red oranges have a strong capacity of inhibiting the production of conjugated diene containing lipids and free radicals in rat cardiomyocytes and differentiated Caco–2 cells, respectively. Statistically higher levels of antioxidant activity in both cell models were found in organically grown oranges as compared to those produced by integrated agriculture practice.


Our results clearly show that organic red oranges have a higher phytochemical content (i. e., phenolics, anthocyanins and ascorbic acid), total antioxidant activity and bioactivity than integrated red oranges. Further studies are needed to confirm whether the organic agriculture practice is likely to increase the antioxidant activity of other varieties of fruits and vegetables.

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Correspondence to A. Tarozzi Ph.D..

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Tarozzi, A., Hrelia, S., Angeloni, C. et al. Antioxidant effectiveness of organically and non-organically grown red oranges in cell culture systems. Eur J Nutr 45, 152–158 (2006).

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Key words

  • red orange
  • integrated agriculture
  • organic agriculture
  • phenolics
  • antioxidant activity