European Food Research and Technology

, Volume 245, Issue 3, pp 753–762 | Cite as

Effect of in vitro gastrointestinal digestion on the total phenolic contents and antioxidant activity of wild Mediterranean edible plant extracts

  • Sandra Gonçalves
  • Elsa Moreira
  • Paula B. Andrade
  • Patrícia Valentão
  • Anabela RomanoEmail author
Original Paper


The recent interest in wild edible plants is associated with their health benefits, which are mainly due to their richness in antioxidant compounds, particularly phenolics. Nevertheless, some of these compounds are metabolized after ingestion, being transformed into metabolites frequently with lower antioxidant activity. The aim of the present study was to evaluate the influence of the digestive process on the total phenolic contents and antioxidant activity of extracts from four wild edible plants used in the Mediterranean diet (Beta maritima L., Plantago major L., Oxalis pes-caprae L. and Scolymus hispanicus L.). HPLC-DAD analysis revealed that S. hispanicus is characterized by the presence of caffeoylquinic acids, dicaffeoylquinic acids and flavonol derivatives, P. major by high amounts of verbascoside, B. maritima possesses 2,4-dihydroxybenzoic acid, 5-O-caffeoylquinic acid, quercetin derivatives and kaempferol-3-O-rutinoside, and O. pes-caprae extract contains hydroxycinnamic acids and flavone derivatives. Total phenolic contents were determined by Folin–Ciocalteu assay, and antioxidant activity by the ABTS, DPPH, ORAC and FRAP assays. Phenolic contents of P. major and S. hispanicus extracts were not affected by digestion, but they significantly decreased in B. maritima after both phases of digestion process and in O. pes-caprae after the gastric phase. The antioxidant activity results varied with the extract and the method used to evaluate the activity. Results showed that P. major extract has the highest total phenolic contents and antioxidant activity, with considerable values even after digestion, reinforcing the health benefits of this species.


Beta maritima L. Gastric digestion Intestinal digestion Plantago major L. Oxalis pes-caprae L. Scolymus hispanicus



This work received financial support from the European Union (FEDER funds through COMPETE). This work also received financial support from National Funds (FCT/MEC, Fundação para a Ciência e Tecnologia/Ministério da Educação e Ciência) through project UID/QUI/50006/2013, co-financed by European Union (FEDER under the Partnership Agreement PT2020), from Programa de Cooperación Interreg V-A España – Portugal (POCTEP) 2014–2020 (project 0377_IBERPHENOL_6_E) and from the project INTERREG - MD.Net: When Brand Meets People. S. Gonçalves acknowledges the financial support from FCT.

Compliance with ethical standards

Conflict of interest

The authors declare no conflict of interest.

Compliance with ethics requirements

This article does not contain any studies with human or animal subjects.


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Copyright information

© Springer-Verlag GmbH Germany, part of Springer Nature 2018

Authors and Affiliations

  • Sandra Gonçalves
    • 1
  • Elsa Moreira
    • 1
  • Paula B. Andrade
    • 2
  • Patrícia Valentão
    • 2
  • Anabela Romano
    • 1
    Email author
  1. 1.Faculty of Sciences and Technology, MeditBioUniversity of AlgarveFaroPortugal
  2. 2.REQUIMTE/LAQV, Laboratório de Farmacognosia, Departamento de Química, Faculdade de FarmáciaUniversidade do PortoPortoPortugal

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