More about the Oxygen Radical Absorbance Capacity (ORAC) score.

Oxygen Radical Absorbance Capacity (ORAC) is a method of measuring antioxidant capacities in biological samples in vitro.

A wide variety of foods has been tested using this methodology, with certain spices, berries and legumes rated highly. Correlation between the high antioxidant capacity of fruits and vegetables, and the positive impact of diets high in fruits and vegetables, is believed to play a role in the free-radical theory of aging. However, there exists no physiological proof in vivo that this theory is valid. Consequently, the ORAC method, derived only in test tube experiments, cannot currently be applied to human biology.

The assay measures the oxidative degradation of the fluorescent molecule (either beta-phycoerythrin or fluorescein) after being mixed with free radical generators such as azo-initiator compounds. Azo-initiators are considered to produce the peroxyl radical by heating, which damages the fluorescent molecule, resulting in the loss of fluorescence. Antioxidant is able to protect the fluorescent molecule from the oxidative degeneration. The degree of protection will be quantified using a fluorometer. Fluorescein is currently used most as a fluorescent probe. Equipment that can automatically measure and calculate the capacity is commercially available (Biotek, Roche Diagnostics).

The fluorescent intensity decreases as the oxidative degeneration proceeds, and this intensity is typically recorded for 35 minutes after the addition of the azo-initiator (free radical generator). So far, AAPH (2,2’-azobis(2-amidino-propane) dihydrochloride) is the sole free-radical generator used. The degeneration (or decomposition) of fluorescein is measured as the presence of the antioxidant slows the fluorescence decay. Decay curves (fluorescence intensity vs. time) are recorded and the area between the two decay curves (with or without antioxidant) is calculated. Subsequently, the degree of antioxidant-mediated protection is quantified using the antioxidant trolox (a vitamin E analogue) as a standard. Different concentrations of trolox are used to make a standard curve, and test samples are compared to this. Results for test samples (foods) have been published as “trolox equivalents” or TE.

One benefit of using the ORAC method to evaluate substances’ antioxidant capacity is that it takes into account samples with and without lag phases of their antioxidant capacities. This is especially beneficial when measuring foods and supplements that contain complex ingredients with various slow and fast acting antioxidants, as well as ingredients with combined effects that cannot be pre-calculated.

Drawbacks of this method are: 1) only antioxidant activity against particular (probably mainly peroxyl) radicals is measured; however, peroxyl radical formation has never been proven; 2) the nature of the damaging reaction is not characterized; 3) there is no evidence that free radicals are involved in this reaction; and 4) there is no evidence that ORAC values have any biological significance following consumption of any food. Moreover, the relationship between ORAC values and a health benefit has not been established.

Several modified ORAC methods have been proposed. Most of them employ the same principle (i.e. measurement of AAPH-radical mediated damage of fuorescein); however, ORAC-EPR, electron paramagnetic resonance (EPR) based ORAC method directly measures the decrease of AAPH-radical level by the scavenging action of the antioxidant substance.

When comparing ORAC data, care must be taken to ensure that the units and food being compared are similar. Some evaluations will compare ORAC units per gram of dry weight, others will evaluate ORAC units in wet weight and still others will look at ORAC units per serving. Under each evaluation, different foods can appear to have higher ORAC values. For example, although a raisin has no more antioxidant potential than the grape from which it was dried, raisins will appear to have a higher ORAC value per gram of wet weight than grapes due to their reduced water content. Likewise, large water content in watermelon can make it appear as though this fruit is low in ORAC. Similarly, the typical quantity of food used should be considered; herbs and spices may be high in ORAC, but are applied in much smaller quantities than for other foods.

Numerous health food and beverage companies and marketers have capitalized on the ORAC rating by promoting products claimed to be “high in ORAC”. As most of these ORAC values have not been independently validated or subjected to peer review for publication in scientific literature, they remain unconfirmed, are not scientifically credible, and may mislead consumers.

In an apple to apple comparison (no pun intended), EXO has the highest ORAC value which simply means more different types of antioxidants! So get your daily EXO and ingest the grape taste at any time of the day and of course anywhere!

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