An International Journal of Sugar Crops
and Related Industries
Sugar Tech (2012) 14:87-94
Health Effects of Non-Centrifugal Sugar
(NCS): A Review
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Health Effects of Non-Centrifugal Sugar (NCS): A Review
Walter R. Jaffe
Received: 6 December 2011 / Accepted: 15 February 2012 / Published online: 8 March 2012
Society for Sugar Research & Promotion 2012
Abstract Non-centrifugal 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 un-reﬁned musco-
vado, 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 func-
tional foods and nutriceuticals. 46 academic publications
have been identiﬁed which reports them. The highest
frequency is immunological effects (26%), followed by
anti-toxicity and cytoprotective effects (22%), anticario-
genic effects (15%) and diabetes and hypertension effects
(11%). Some of these effects can be traced to the pres-
ence of Fe and Cr, and others are suggested to be caused
Keywords Non-centrifugal sugar Panela Jaggery
Nutritional properties Antioxidative properties
Non-centrifugal sugar (NCS), the technical name used by
the Food and Agriculture Organization (FAO), is a food
which used to be the dominant form of cane sugar con-
sumption before the large-scale production of reﬁned sugar
for export markets after 1700 (Galloway 2000). It is still
consumed in most sugarcane growing regions and countries
of the world and known under many different names
(Table 1). The most common synonyms for NCS in the
scientiﬁc literature are jaggery, panela, kokuto, whole cane
sugar and unreﬁned brown or black sugar. NCS is obtained
by evaporating the water in sugar cane juice, that is, it is
essentially evaporated cane juice.
The displacement of NCS by reﬁned sugar is part of
broad changes in global food consumption patterns char-
acterized by growing consumption of fats, reﬁned sugar
and ﬂours, leading to a large increase of the caloric intake,
a ‘‘nutrition transition’’ linked to the development of
obesity and related diseases of diabetes, strokes and others
(Popkins 2006). Increasing recognition of the negative
impacts of current dominant diets and sedentary behavioral
patterns is a crucial precondition for their reversal and of
the enabling of successful aging. ‘‘Natural’’ and ‘‘organic’’
products are increasingly popular, attaining signiﬁcant
market shares in many countries. This opens an opportunity
for the revival of NCS.
Scientiﬁc research has been conﬁrming signiﬁcant
positive health effects of NCS and its precursor products.
We have identiﬁed 46 academic publications which report
some health effect. The highest frequency is immunologi-
cal effects (26%), followed by anti-toxicity and cytopro-
tective effects (22%), anticariogenic effects (15%) and
diabetes and hypertension effects (11%). But NCS is
practically outside the current focus on functional foods
and nutriceuticals as shown, for example, by the fact that
no sugarcane products at all are included in the databases
of antioxidant properties and phenolic compounds in foods
created in the last few years, such as the United States
Department of Agriculture (USDA) databases on oxygen
radical absorbance capacity, ﬂavonoids and proanthocyanidins
W. R. Jaffe
Innovaciones Alimentarias INNOVAL, Calle Paguey, Qta. Irazu,
La Trinidad, Caracas, Venezuela
Sugar Tech (Apr-June 2012) 14(2):87–94
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and the French national institute for agronomic research dat-
abases on phenolics (USDA 2010,2007,2004; Neveu et al.
2010). Also, no sugarcane products were found in the food lists
in some of the recent reviews on antioxidants and phenolics in
the human diet (Halvorsen et al. 2002; Devasagayan et al.
2004;Blomhoff2005; Dimitrios 2006; Petti and Scully 2009).
One probable reason for this omission is the confusion and lack
of awareness created by the use of different names for the same
or related products used in different countries. Another factor
is that research on NCS and related products is scattered in
different ﬁelds, with insufﬁcient interdisciplinary perspectives
and published in local languages, like Spanish or Japanese.
This review therefore aims at highlighting the importance of
NCS by producing an integrated picture of the current status on
its health effects on humans and to suggest directions for
The academic publications on the health effects of NCS
for this review were identiﬁed principally with the google
scholar search facility, systematically using a predeﬁned
set of key words related to health, each time combined with
one of the following denominations for NCSs: NCS, raw
sugar, whole cane sugar, panela, jaggery, kokuto, brown
sugar, black sugar, piloncillo and rapadura. For each search
result a maximum of 10 consecutive pages of references
were examined. The search was conducted from October to
Health Effects of NCS
The ﬁrst paper found mentioning a health effect of NCS is a
South African of 1937 reporting the protective effect of raw
sugar on the decalciﬁcation of teeth (Osborn et al. 1937a),
followed by a report on the effect of panela consumption on
anemia (Jaffe and Ochoa 1949). John Yudkin, an eminent
British nutritionist, studying the difference between reﬁned
and unreﬁned ingredients of the diet, discovered in 1951 that
unreﬁned muscovado promotes the survival of new-born rats
and postulated the existence in it of a ‘‘reproductive factor R’’
required for the proper viability of rat pups (Wiesner and
Yudkin 1951). These ﬁndings were reconﬁrmed by Yudkin
25 year latter (Eisa and Yudkin 1985), when trying to repli-
cate the work of two Soviet scientists who reported extensive
positive health effects, such as promotion of growth, etc., of
unreﬁned sugar on rats (Brekhman and Nesterenko 1983). He
cautiously concluded that ‘‘in certain circumstances, unre-
ﬁned muscovado sugar might contribute to the nutritional
value of a human diet’’ (Eisa and Yudkin 1985).
The systematic and sustained research on the health
effects of NCS started in Japan in the 1980s, where several
groups from companies, universities and government
institutions discovered various physiological effects of
kokuto, the typical NCS from Okinawa, joined more
recently by groups in other countries.
Table 1 Names for NCS Region Country Name
Asia India, Pakistan Jaggery, Gur
Thailand Namtan Tanode
Japan Kokuto, black sugar (Kuro Sato)
Philippines Moscavado, Panocha, Panutsa
Sri Lanka Hakuru, Vellam
Malaysia Gula Melaka
Indonesia Gula Java, Gula Merah
Latin America Mexico Piloncillo
Costa Rica Tapa dulce
Panama Panela, Raspadura
Colombia, Ecuador Panela
Peru, Bolivia Chancaca
Argentina Azucar integral, azucar panela
Africa Nigeria, Kenya, South Africa Jaggery
Swahili speaking countries Sukari Njumru
Europe, North America UK Brown sugar, un-reﬁned muscovado
USA Raw sugar, brown sugar, muscovado
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An early study in 1949 with anemic rats indicated that iron
in panela is readily absorbed, producing high hemoglobin
levels in 18 days (Jaffe and Ochoa 1949). Two recent
studies support these ﬁndings in humans. One in Ecuador
found that iron adsorption from wheat noodle soup was
signiﬁcantly higher consumed with lemonade sweetened
with panela (11%), compared with the same meal without
lemonade, in 13 women and measured by a double isotopic
method (Olivares et al. 2007). A statistical signiﬁcant
increase in hemoglobin in pre-school children was dem-
onstrated in a 12 weeks randomized, controlled double
blind trial, with the consumption of a beverage of panela
with ascorbic acid, in Brazil (Arcanjo et al. 2009). These
are still few evidences for this potentially very important
health effect of NCS. If further studies conﬁrm the high
bioavailability of the iron in NCS by humans it would
suggest new strategies to ﬁght anemia in many countries.
Current strategies focus on enhancement of diets and die-
tary patterns as well as on food fortiﬁcation with iron and
direct supplementation of iron intake (WHO 2001), and
more recently on the so called biofortiﬁcation, which seeks
to increase the iron content in staple crops by genetic
means or by fertilization (Sautter and Gruissem 2010;
Carmak 2010). The development of mass-consumption
products based on NCS, a soda beverage for example,
would be a relatively cheap and market-attuned strategy,
which could be industrially and commercially attractive.
The early South African research already mentioned
incubated teeth with saliva for 2–8 weeks. The presence of
reﬁned sugar induced a high degree of decalciﬁcation,
whether crude cane juice caused very few cases. The
presence of a protective agent, which is removed in the
course of sugar reﬁning was postulated (Osborn et al.
1937a). Calcium glycerophosphate was found to be very
effective in protecting the teeth against in vitro decalciﬁ-
cation, more than a mixture of lactate and sodium glycer-
ophosphate. After this initial lead, the caries-preventive
effect of phosphate additives was demonstrated in vivo,
with cariogenic diets fed to rats (Osborn et al. 1937b). The
speciﬁc effect of different sugars was further explored and
the existence of factors reducing the solubility rate of
enamel in cane juice and other sugar cane derivatives was
conﬁrmed (Edgar and Jenkins 1967). The powerful effect
of crude sugar on enamel solubility in buffers is observed
after 4 h incubation with saliva but is reduced or abolished
after 24 h. This is attributed to the action of Ca, Fe and Cu
ions (Jenkins 1970). The consensus in the 1970s then was
that phosphates and, particularly, tri-phosphates are
effective compounds for reducing dental caries in experi-
mental animals and in vitro, even in the presence of high
sugar cariogenic diets (McLure 1964). The speciﬁc inhi-
bition of phosphatase enzymes by phosphates was postu-
lated as a possible mechanism of action, as well as the
ability of phosphates to elute proteins adsorbed onto
enamel (Kreitzman 1974). A longitudinal survey with
children in Switzerland reported a signiﬁcant reduction of
decayed teeth incidence due to consumption of unreﬁned
‘‘complete’’ sugar (Beguin and Schouker 1995).
The cariostatic effect of NCS was then presumably due
to its content of phosphates. But a synergistic effect of
adding phosphates to a brown sugar diet on inhibition of
dental caries in hamsters suggested that additional bioac-
tive substances were present (Stralfors 1966). This has
been also found more recently by a collaboration of the
Ryukyus University and Toiyo Kagaku Co. from Japan
which reported the isolation of two phenolic bioactive
compounds from sugar cane molasses (dehydrodiconifer-
ylalcohol-90-O-b-D-glucopyranoside and isoorientin-7,30-
O-dimethyl ether), which have inhibitory properties against
the cariogenic bacteria Streptococcus mutans and Strepto-
coccus sobrinus comparable to commercial anti-bacterial
agents (Takara et al. 2007a). A glucosyl-transferase inhi-
bition effect is suggested.
Antitoxic and Cytoprotective Effects
The observation that industrial workers in dusty or smoky
environments seemed to experience no discomfort if they
consumed jaggery led researchers from the industrial toxi-
cology research centre in India to study this phenomenon.
Experiments with rats showed enhanced translocation of
particles from lungs in jaggery-fed animals. Jaggery also
reduced the coal-induced histological lesions and
hydroxyproline content of lungs (Sahu and Saxena 1994).
The same group, together with researchers from the Jamia
Hamdard University, has more recently shown that jaggery
has an anti-arsenic-toxicity effect in mice. Supplementation
of diet with jaggery reduced the incidence of chromosomal
aberrations in arsenic treated mice (Singh et al. 2008).
Jaggery fed to mice prevented the reduction of total anti-
oxidants, glutathione peroxidase and glutathione reductase
and the increase of interleukin-1b, interleukin-6 and TNF-a
in serum, lessened the genotoxic effects of arsenic in bone-
marrow cells and antagonized the lesions associated with
emphysema and thickening of alveolar septa (Singh et al.
2010). A collaborative effort between the University of Sao
Paulo, Brazil, and the University of Havana, Cuba, identi-
ﬁed a protective effect of a phenolic extract from sugarcane
juice against in vivo MeHgCl intoxication, suggesting a link
between antioxidant activity of sugarcane products and its
antitoxicity effects (Duarte-Almeida et al. 2006).
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These ﬁndings are important, particularly the ones
related to arsenic poisoning, given the grave public health
problems in parts of Bangladesh and India due to
groundwater contamination with arsenic (Saﬁuddin 2001;
Singh et al. 2010), meriting their direct conﬁrmation in
humans through statistically signiﬁcant epidemiological or
A collaborative study by researchers from the National
Institute of Animal Health, the Tokyo University of Agri-
culture and Technology and the Mitsui Sugar Co., in Japan,
the Tanta University in Egypt and the Chungbuk National
University of the Republic of Korea found in 2005 that the
administration of a sugar cane extract (SCE), the non-sugar
fraction of concentrated sugarcane juice (the prior step in
obtaining kokuto), before X-ray radiation of chicken,
increased their survival rate 18.8% compared with the
irradiated control (Amer et al. 2005). Histological exami-
nation showed reduced damage to the intestines, pointing
to a cytoprotective effect. A group of the Bhabha Atomic
Research Centre, in Mumbai, India, reported a protective
role of sugarcane juice against radiation induced DNA
damage, using E. coli and pBR322 plasmids in vivo models
(Kadam et al. 2008). The ability of sugarcane juice to
scavenge free radicals, reduce iron complex and inhibit
lipid peroxidation are thought to explain possible mecha-
nisms by which sugarcane juice exhibits this effect. Other
research has shown that sugarcane products also protect
DNA and cells against oxidative damage. A collaborative
study by groups from Portugal, USA and Spain in 2007
reported that extracts from molasses obtained through
chromatographic steps exhibited signiﬁcant antioxidative
features and protected against in vitro induced DNA oxi-
dative damage, via decreased DNA scission, as assessed by
electrophoresis (Guimaraes et al. 2007).
The antioxidative and cytoprotection activity is also
found in jaggery, suggesting that the bioactive compounds
behind these properties are carried over from juice to NCS.
Researchers from the Central Food Technological Research
Institute and the University of Mysore, India, reported that
a 4 mg/ml concentration of jaggery provided a 97% pro-
tection in a NIH 3T3 cells oxidation research model (Harish
Nayaka et al. 2009). Following the lead provided by the
fact that brown sugar has been traditionally used as a
treatment for skin problems in oriental medicine, a group
from the Ehine Graduate School of Medicine and the
Foundation of International Oriental Medicine Research
demonstrated that topical application for 19 weeks of a
non-sugar fraction of brown sugar prevented chronic UVB-
induced aging of the skin in a in vivo model with melanin-
possessing hairless mice (Sumiyoshi et al. 2009). It is
suggested that this may be due to the inhibition of the
increase in matrix metalloproteinase-2 and vascular endo-
thelial growth factor expression.
SCE has been shown by researchers from Japanese,
Egyptian, Finnish, South Korean and Thai universities and
a Japanese sugar company to have functionally and mor-
phologically intestinal reconstituting effects on chicken,
with signiﬁcant consequences for bodyweight gains, indi-
cating a possible role in animal nutrition (El-Abasy et al.
2004; Amer et al. 2004; Yamauchi et al. 2006; Ruttanarut
et al. 2010).
Diabetes and Hypertension
The effects of NCS on blood health parameters was one of
the earliest issues studied, as pointed out before. Yudkin
could not replicate the supposedly beneﬁcial effects of
muscovado consumption on carbohydrate metabolism
reported by Brekhman and Nesterenko in 1983. To the
contrary, he found that compared with sucrose, un-reﬁned
sugar produced an increase of blood cholesterol and tri-
glycerides and in the activity of the hepatic fatty acid
synthetase (Eisa and Yudkin 1985).
Schroeder, in the course of research into the nutritional
effects of trace metals, studying the effect of chromium(III)
in the diet, found to the contrary that serum cholesterol
levels were relatively elevated and increased with age in
rats fed white sugar, compared with rats fed brown sugar
with higher levels of chromium(III). Fasting serum glucose
was relatively low in rats fed brown sugar, suggesting that
chromium(III) can lower cholesterol and glucose levels in
serum (Schroeder 1969; Schroeder et al. 1971). Today it is
widely accepted that chromium(III) is an essential nutrient,
with toxic properties at high levels (Eastmond et al. 2008).
Schroeder0s work then, identiﬁed NCS as a good source of
the chromium(III) needed in human nutrition.
NCS is equally hyperglycaemic with sucrose and honey,
as reported by Uma et al. from the Madras Medical College
in India (1987). Therefore, any antidiabetic effect should
be more long term. Kimura et al. at Ehine University and
The Research Institute of Oriental Medicine in Japan
(1984), reported that the non-sugar fraction of crude black
sugar (kokuto) inhibited the elevation of serum triglycer-
ides, lipid peroxidase and insulin of rats fed a high sucrose
diet for 61 days, without elevation of plasma glucose.
Furthermore, it was found that this non-sugar fraction
inhibited the adsorption of glucose and fructose from the
small intestine of rats. The active substances for this effect
were identiﬁed as 3,4-dimethyl-phenyl-O-D-glucoside and
3,4,6-trimethoxy-phenyl-O-D-glucoside (BS-1) (Kimura et al.
1984). BS-1 also reduced plasma insulin without elevating
plasma glucose. Inafuku et al. conﬁrmed these results in an
apolipoprotein E-deﬁcient-mice in vivo model, ﬁnding that
dietary intake of kokuto reduced liver triglycerides levels and
body weight, but not in a Japanese quail research model (In-
afuku et al. 2007). These results could not be replicated by
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Okabe et al. (2009) from Kagoshima and The Ryukyus uni-
versities in Japan who, working with an essentially similar
extract obtained from kokuto, found no signiﬁcant decrease of
total cholesterol and triglycerides serumlevel in feeding trials
with Japanese quails. The discrepancy is attributed to the
lower dose of extract used (Okabe et al. 2009). But in vitro
experiments by Galvez et al. (2008) from the University of
Sao Paulo in Brazil and the University of Massachusetts in the
US found that dark muscovado from Peru and Mauritius
showed moderate inhibition of yeast a-glucosidase, without
showing a signiﬁcant effect on porcine pancreatic a-amylase,
key enzymes relevant to Type 2 diabetes and hypertension.
NCS contains a small amount of policosanols, particu-
larly octacosanol (Asikin et al. 2008). These compounds
have been credited with blood lipid lowering activity, giving
rise to commercial offers of sugar cane derived food sup-
plements, claims that have not been independently repli-
cated (Berthold et al. 2000). Okabe et al. found that dietary
intake of octacosanol in NCS had no signiﬁcant effect on
serum lipids level in Japanese quails (Okabe et al. 2009).
If the issue of the antidiabetes effects of NCS is still to
be resolved, ﬁrmer evidence for antiatherosclerosis effects
seems to exist. Inafuku et al. (2007) reported that kokuto
prevents lipid-containing aortic intimate thickening lesions
in Japanese quail, but not so in apolipoprotein E-deﬁcient-
mice. This difference is attributed to the high susceptibility
of this strain of mice to early atherosclerosis. The reduction
in aortic lesions is thought to be related to the phenolics
content of kokuto. The same research groups conﬁrmed
later that dietary intakes of kokuto prevented the devel-
opment of atherosclerosis in Japanese quails (Okabe et al.
2009). Supplementation of the diet with kokuto and with
phenolic compounds extracted from kokuto signiﬁcantly
reduced the development of atherosclerosis as compared to
the ingestion of sucrose. There was a signiﬁcant negative
correlation between the sera radical-scavenging-activity
and the degree of atherosclerosis in the experimental
groups. Therefore phenolic compounds played a central
role in the prevention of this experimental atherosclerosis,
probably by improving oxidative stress in aortic lesions.
In a series of papers published from 2002 to 2007, various
collaborations between the National Institute of Animal
Health, the University of Tokyo and the Shin Mitsui Sugar
Co., in Japan, and institution in Egypt, South Korea,
Thailand, Taiwan and Finland reported growth promoting,
immunostimulating, adjuvant and infection protective
effects of oral administration of SCE, and of polyphenol-
rich fractions of them, in chicken, pigs and mice. Chicken
fed SCE for 3 or 6 consecutive days signiﬁcantly increased
their body weight and bodyweight increase per day, and
reduced their food conversion ratios, showing also signif-
icantly higher immune responses against sheep red blood
cells, Brucella abortus and Salmonella enteritis, as well as
protection against Eimeria tenella infection. Polymorpho-
nuclear cells of the peripheral blood signiﬁcantly increased
their phagocytosis when cultured with SCE for 24 h.
Delayed type hypersensitivity responses to human gamma
globulin also increased signiﬁcantly (El-Abasy et al. 2002;
El-Abasy et al. 2003a,b; El-Abasy et al. 2004; Hikosaka
et al. 2007). SCE administration also had preventive and
therapeutic effects on X-rays and cyclophosphamide
induced immunosuppression and feed-withdrawal stress in
chicken (Amer et al. 2004).
In the case of pigs, SCE signiﬁcantly enhanced cyto-
toxicity of natural killer cells and phagocytosis by neu-
trophils and monocytes, interferon gamma production, as
well as growth-enhancement and protection against por-
cine-reproductive-respiratory syndrome (Lo et al. 2005;Lo
et al. 2006). In a mouse model, SCE inhibited and pro-
tected the animals against endotoxic lethal shock. Supple-
mentation of SCE to peritoneal macrophages cultured with
lipopolysacharide (LPS) resulted in a signiﬁcant reduction
of nitric oxide (NO) production. A peritoneal, but not
intravenous or oral, administration of SCE, 3–48 h before
LPS ?GalN challenge, resulted in a signiﬁcantly
improved survival rate (92.3%) and decrease of liver
injury, suggesting as one of possible action mechanism of
this effect the suppression of NO production (Hikosaka
et al. 2006; Motobu et al. 2006).
Anticarcinogenic effects of sugar cane derivatives have
been reported. A Japanese group found them in sugar cane
vinegar in in vitro and in vivo experiments. The vinegar
depressed the reverse mutation in Salmonella typhimurium
TA98 induced by mutagens. The bioactive component
extracted by chromatography, estimated to be a phenolic,
effectively depressed the proliferation of a promyelocytic
leukaemia cell line. Its administration as a 5% mouse diet
signiﬁcantly stimulated the activity of killer cells and
showed a tendency to depress the proliferation of tumour
cells (Yoshimoto et al. 2008). A glycoside, extracted from
sugar cane juice by a Brazilian group showed in vitro
antiproliferative activity against several human cancer cell
lines with a higher selectivity towards cells of breast
resistant NIC/ADR line (Duarte-Almeida et al. 2007).
Abnormal pigmentation of the human skin can be an aes-
thetic problem. The inhibition of melanin tyrosinase, a key
enzyme in the biosynthesis of melanin, the human skin
Sugar Tech (Apr-June 2012) 14(2):87–94 91
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pigment, is one therapeutic strategy used. Many natural and
synthetic inhibitors of this type have been found (Chang
2009). The ﬁrst report of effects of sugar cane products on
the human skin was published in Japan in 1993 (Yamashita
et al. 1993). More recently, a group from the Ryukyus
University and the Toyko Kagaku Co. identiﬁed two bio-
active phenolic compounds (Tachioside and DDMP) iso-
lated from sugar cane molasses, with radical scavenging
and tyrosinase inhibition activity (Takara et al. 2007b).
Potential Negative Effect
A potential health hazard in NCS is the presence of
acrylamide. This substance is suspected to be carcinogenic
and forms when carbohydrates and the amino acid aspar-
agine are subjected to high temperatures, as during baking,
frying and roasting (Dybing et al. 2005). Its presence in
common foods, such as fried potatoes, bread and coffee,
was detected in 2000 (Reynolds 2002). Acrylamide is
present in NCS, as data from Germany shows (Hoenicke
and Gaterman 2005).
After an initial scare the consensus today is that
‘‘adverse effects are….unlikely at the estimated average
intakes’’, but that nevertheless it constitutes a human health
concern (FAO-WHO 2005,2010). Mitigation strategies
based on controlling heat exposure of the food are theo-
retically effective in reducing its formation, but have still to
show a signiﬁcant impact.
This review shows that there are strong indications that the
consumption of NCS has many health effects, some of
them potentially important for public health. But in no case
has this been unambiguously demonstrated, that is, sufﬁ-
ciently documented and replicated. This demonstration
should identify the bioactive substances, their activity in in
vitro and in vivo research models, and their effectiveness in
clinical or human consumption trials or epidemiological
analysis. Ideally, their bioavailability, metabolic fate and
molecular action mechanism should be known. Elements
like Fe and Cr, and several phenolic compounds are bio-
active substances already identiﬁed in NCS.
The health effects which seem to be the most promising
or important ones in the short term are the effect on anemia
and the anti-arsenic-toxicity effect, because of their rele-
vance to speciﬁc public health issues in deﬁned countries.
Anemia is an important global health issue, particularly for
developing countries, and arsenic intoxication is important
in Bangladesh and India (Singh et al. 2010). Examples of
studies required for strengthening the existing evidence for
the effect of NCS consumption on anemia are the
replication of consumption trials with different groups and
different foods; deﬁning the effects of chemical or physical
characteristics of the food incorporating NCS on bio-
availability; dosage studies for optimizing effects; identi-
fying the factors affecting iron content in NCS; among
Many of the reviewed health effects of NCS are thought to
be based on the presence of anti-oxidative components,
particularly polyphenols. Polyphenols and other antioxi-
dants are thought to protect cell constituents against oxida-
tive damage through scavenging of free radicals (Scalbert
et al. 2005). But increasingly it is becoming clear that the
effects are much broader. Evidences for direct interactions of
them with receptors or enzymes involved in cellular signal
transduction, for example, shows that their effect on the
redox status of the cells goes beyond their scavenging of free
radicals. So, the biological effects of polyphenols may well
extent beyond oxidative stress (Scalbert et al. 2005; Korkina
2007). Anyhow, the health effects of antioxidants, and par-
ticularly of polyphenols, have still not been scientiﬁcally
demonstrated, that is, a cause-effect relationship between
antioxidants in food and a health effect has not been estab-
lished, as the European Food Standards Agency (EFSA)
recently concluded (2010). This is a prerequisite for the
approval of any health claim for foods.
The search of antioxidants in NCS and other sugarcane
derived products is part of the extended interest in anti-
oxidant phenolics since 1995 (Scalbert et al. 2005), driven
by the quest of exploiting their putative health effect
through food supplements or pharmaceuticals. Many of the
Japanese studies, for example, have been in collaboration
or with the support of sugar companies looking for new
business opportunities and which have patented processes
for use of sugarcane extracts for health purposes (see, for
example, Araki et al. 2006). But the full characterization of
the antioxidant capabilities and effects of NCS will need a
much broader scientiﬁc effort, involving not only many
more industries but also the support of governments and
national and international NGOs and funding bodies.
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and Y. Hirota. 2005. Radioprotective effect of sugar cane extract
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Amer, S., K.-J. Na, M. El-Abasy, M. Motobu, Y. Koyama, K. Koge,
and Y. Hirota. 2004. Immunostimulating effects of sugar cane
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Araki, S., M. Suzuki, T. Mizutani, K. Koge, Y. Nagai, H. Murakami,
T. Kawai, J. Kashimura, and T. Shimizu. 2006. Preventive/
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