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A review on chemistry and pharmacology of Ajwa date fruit and pit
, Nauman Khalid
, Rao Sanaullah Khan
, Haroon Ahmed
Institute of Food and Nutritional Sciences, Pir Mehr Ali Shah Arid Agriculture University, Rawalpindi, Pakistan
School of Food and Agricultural Sciences, University of Management and Technology, Lahore 54000, Pakistan
Centre for Chemistry and Biotechnology, School of Life and Environmental Sciences, Deakin University, Waurn Ponds, Victoria, 3216, Australia
Department of Biosciences, COMSATS Institute of Information Technology, Islamabad 45550, Pakistan
Department for Management of Science and Technology Development &Faculty of Applied Sciences, Ton Duc Thang University, Ho Chi Minh City, Viet Nam
Department of Food Technology, PMAS-Arid Agriculture University, Rawalpindi 46300, Pakistan
Received 6 October 2016
Received in revised form
12 December 2016
Accepted 21 February 2017
Available online 10 March 2017
Background: Phoenix dactylifera is an instinctive plant, cultivated worldwide especially in Arab regions
being an edible nutritious fruit. For this plant, Ajwa date fruit variety is distinguished among all varieties
due to its richness of sugar, dietary ﬁber, essential mineral and vitamin contents. The unique phyto-
chemical proﬁle of Ajwa dates have potential to cure different diseases.
Scope and Approach: This manuscript provides an overview on pharmacological and nutritional aspects
exclusively for Ajwa dates. The excellent phytochemicals proﬁle placed Ajwa dates at top among other
date varieties. Recently, new in vitro and in vivo studies prove the effectiveness of Ajwa dates. However,
quantitative studies are need to understand the protective actions of Ajwa dates.
Key Findings and Conclusions: Ajwa fruit pits are also enriched with dietary ﬁbers, lipids, minerals, and
proteins. Ajwa dates are consumed not only for dietary purposes but also used for their medicinal effects
against different ailments. Phytochemical studies have showed that Ajwa ﬂesh and pits are enriched
with certain phenolic and ﬂavonoids, which have multiple effects on human health due to their strong
antioxidant properties. Preclinical studies revealed that Ajwa dates have strong antioxidant, anti-
inﬂammatory, anti-mutagenic, hepato-protective, nephroprotective and anti-cancer activities.
©2017 Elsevier Ltd. All rights reserved.
Traditionally fruits constitute a major part of human diet from
ancient time. Certain fruits acquire a special attention in daily
routine of certain population owing to their religious practices.
Fruits and vegetables have been recommended strongly by WHO
and other nutritional societies around the world for improving
general health and wellness of masses. In the wake of health and
wellness awareness from last two decades a signiﬁcant progress
has been made on the studies of bioactive compounds in plants
foods to ﬁnd their direct effects on human health and wellbeing
(Vayalil, 2012). In this regard date fruit is well-regarded for its
nutraceutical properties in Middle East and Africa. However, its
signiﬁcance in Western countries has not been explored yet owing
different culture and eating habits. Scientiﬁc community now has
realized its nutritional value in diet and has started to explore more
avenues for development in this category of fruits.
Date palm commonly known as Phoenix dactylifera is one of the
oldest (5500e3000 BCE) cultivated variety of date palm trees
having nutritional, environmental, economic and ornamental,
beneﬁts (Barreveld, 1993). Cultivation of date palm is thought to be
merged with cultural, environmental, religious and social devel-
opment of people living in hot and arid areas especially in Middle
East and Africa (Terral et al., 2012). Therefore, till now date palm is a
major cultivating crop of above described areas and these regions
are leading producers and exporters of date products worldwide
(Assirey, 2015). Date palm is monocotyledon tree that can grow to
an altitude of 1500 m in well-drained soils. Currently, date palm
tree is being cultivated mainly in areas of Iraq, Iran, Saudi Arabia,
Algeria, Egypt, Libya, Pakistan, Morocco, Sudan and Oman (FAO,
2003). One of the major characteristics of date fruit is to be
*Corresponding author. Department for Management of Science and Technology
Development &Faculty of Applied Sciences, Ton Duc Thang University, Ho Chi Minh
City, Viet Nam.
E-mail address: email@example.com (A. Ahmad).
Contents lists available at ScienceDirect
Trends in Food Science &Technology
journal homepage: http://www.journals.elsevier.com/trends-in-food-science-
0924-2244/©2017 Elsevier Ltd. All rights reserved.
Trends in Food Science &Technology 63 (2017) 60e69
consumed as staple dietary food in different regions of the world
such as Arabian, Asian and some African countries (Barreveld,
1993). Another distinguishing characteristic of date fruit is that it
can be consumed at three different maturity stages such as Khalal,
Rutab and Tamar. However, newly ripened fresh dates are preferred
in many date producing countries. Dates are also commercially
available in dehydrated form, but dehydrated dates are prepared by
drying processing techniques to increase their shelf life but it re-
duces the nutritional value of these dates (Abdul-Hamid, Abas,
Ismail, Shaari, &Lajis, 2015). Taste, nutritional and phytochemical
properties of the dates vary depending upon its maturity stage and
the variety of dates. There are approximately 5000 date varieties
that are grown in different regions of the world. The most common
ones are Aseel, Zahidi, Majdool, Mabrook, Dhakki, Halawi, Lasht,
Deggla and Bamy (Eid, Al-Awadi, Vauzour, Oruna-Concha, &
Spencer, J. P., 2013; Eid, Al-Awadi, Vauzour, Oruna-Concha, &
Spencer, J. P.E., 2013).
Ajwa date fruits (Fig. 1) are soft and dry and this date fruit is
cultivated in the Al Madinah region of western Saudi Arabia. The
Ajwa date variety has great medicinal properties. The old testa-
ments, “Hadith”and Islamic literature pointed the beneﬁcial
properties of this date variety and it is believed that eating this date
variety will cure many chronic diseases and ailments. The Ajwa
date the most popular and expensive fruit that belongs only to the
holy city of Al Madinah Al Munawara and its adjoining areas in
Saudi Arabia (Zhang, Adosari, Vidyasagar, P. S. P. V., Nair, &Nair,
2013; Zhang, Aldosari, Vidyasagar, P. S., Nair, &Nair, 2013). Ajwa
dates contain ample amount of dietary ﬁber and have potential to
correct the digestion problems. Ajwa date works as natural
roughage to the body and stimulate the bowl movement and pro-
vide effective relief from constipation (Al-Shahib &Marshall, 2003).
Similarly, these dates contain high amounts of potassium and plays
an effective role in muscle contraction. The Ajwa fruit shape is
ovoid elongated and medium in size. The color is dark red in the
rutab stage and turns to dark brown in the tamer stage with
wrinkles (Fig. 1). The weights of Ajwa ﬂesh and seed increase
during the rutab stage and then decrease during the tamer stage
(Gasim, 1994). Ajwa date has a sugar content of 77% (0.5% sucrose,
34.5% glucose and 25.6% fructose) and high proportion of minerals
(3%) compared to other varieties of dates (1.5e2.7%), especially
calcium (1.22 g/100 g dry matter) (Gasim, 1994).
Ajwa dates are effective for lactating women, since they assist in
enriching breast milk with many effective nutrients. Furthermore,
several studies have shown that kids of mothers who eat Ajwa
dates regularly are less susceptible to diseases and infections (Al-
Farsi &Lee, 2008). The other huge advantage of consuming Ajwa
dates is that they comprise of high iron content. Iron is vital in red
blood cell production and they may also assist to treat and prevent
anemia (N. S. Hasan et al., 2010). Ajwa dates due to its high nutri-
tional and health beneﬁt properties can be considered as a potential
bioactive ingredient for developing health oriented food products
(Al-Farsi &Lee, 2008). Therefore, this review is focused on sum-
marizing the current research studies on nutritional importance,
phytochemical composition and health beneﬁts of Ajwa dates.
2. Nutritional signiﬁcance of Ajwa date fruit parts
It was suggested in the second American Institute for Cancer
Research (AICR) and World Cancer Research Fund International
(WCRF) expert committee report that people should overcome
their nutritional requirements through routine diet rather than
using dietary supplements for preventing cancer and other chronic
diseases (Stewart &Wild, 2015). Ajwa date fruit being a staple food
has provided nutrition to millions of people worldwide since
ancient times till now. Therefore, it is important to characterize the
nutritional proﬁle of Ajwa dates in order to enhance its consump-
tion for preventing the onset of various diet related diseases. The
nutritional composition of Ajwa date ﬂesh and pit has been re-
ported by various researchers (Assirey, 2015; Hamad et al., 2015). It
was found that Ajwa ﬂesh contains 80% reducing sugars (Assirey,
2015; Khalid, Ahmad, Masud, Asad, &Sandhu, 2016) along with
other amino acids (Assirey, 2015), proteins and fats. While, Ajwa
date pits have higher percentage of proteins, crude fat and crude
ﬁber in comparison to Ajwa ﬂesh (Khalid et al., 2016). Recently,
Khalid, et al. (2016) studied the proximate composition of Ajwa
date ﬂesh and pits (Table 1) and pointed richness of Ajwa ﬂesh in
moisture, ash, glucose, fructose, galactose and maltose. While, the
Ajwa pits are enriched with crude fat and ﬁber and protein (Khalid
et al., 2016). Moreover, their study showed a positive correlation
(0.90 and 0.94) between crude ﬁber and fat with crude protein in
Ajwa pits. Ajwa dates are also enriched with variety of minerals
especially potassium together with zinc and calcium (Assirey, 2015;
Gasim, 1994; Khalid et al., 2016). In this section, we brieﬂy highlight
the nutrient composition of Ajwa dates.
Ajwa date ﬂesh is a high-energy food due to rich sugar contents
that varies between 33.2 and 74.2%. Glucose and fructose (Table 2)
are the major reducing sugars, while sucrose as non-reducing share
the minor percentage in composition. The Ajwa pits contain low
amount of sugars varying between 7.2 and 7.6% (Assirey, 2015;
Khalid et al., 2016; C.-R.; Zhang, Aldosari, Vidyasagar, Shukla, &
Nair, 2015). The detail sugar contents of Ajwa ﬂesh and pit is pre-
sented in Table 1. The bulk of the soluble compounds in Ajwa date
fruit comprises of sugars both in aqueous and organic extracts.
Recently, proton and carbon NMR studies showed different
monosaccharides as mixture of
as well as mixtures of
These different monosaccharides were identiﬁed both in aqueous
Fig. 1. Ajwa date fruit together with different ripening stages. The picture is obtained
with permission from Eid, Al-Awadi, Vauzour, Oruna-Concha, &Spencer, J. P. (2013);
Eid, Al-Awadi, Vauzour, Oruna-Concha, &Spencer, J. P.E. (2013), Copyright by ACS
2013 America Chemical Society.
Carbohydrate found in Ajwa date ﬂesh and pits. The values are reported as %age dry
Ajwa date fruit Sugars Assirey, 2015 Khalid et al., 2016 Gasim, 1994
Flesh Glucose 51.3 54.5 51.2
Fructose 48.5 52.0 48.7
Maltose e22.5 e
Galactose e12.2 e
Sucrose 3.2 e3.1
Pits Glucose e20.1 e
Fructose e16.1 e
Maltose e6.1 e
Galactose e3.4 e
S. Khalid et al. / Trends in Food Science &Technology 63 (2017) 60e69 61
and methanolic extracts (Zhang et al., 2015). The reducing sugars
tend to increase in Ajwa date with different ripening stages. The %
age reducing sugars increased from 41.2 to 81.1 and sucrose content
increased from 1.3 to 3.1 during shift from Kimri to Tamre stage
(Gasim, 1994). In a recent study by Hamad et al. (2015) they noticed
high sucrose content of 25.6% that deviated the results from pre-
2.2. Amino acids
The amino acids analysis (Table 2a) Ajwa ﬂesh showed a higher
percentage of essential amino acids (Assirey, 2015; Hamad et al.,
2015). Among the variations, the major essential amino acids re-
ported were proline (86 mg/100 g), histidine (26 mg/100 g), leucine
(57 mg/100 g), glycine (83 mg/100 g), aspartic acid (186 mg/100 g),
glutathione (205 mg/100 g) and lysine (73 mg/100 g). Recently, Ali,
Alhaj, Al-Khalifa, and Brückner (2014) investigated the proteino-
genic and non-proteinogenic amino acids in Ajwa dates using ion-
exchange chromatography and found ample amount of both pro-
teinogenic and non-proteinogenic amino acids in Ajwa date fruit.
The Ajwa date contains large of non-proteinogenic amino acids like
(2S,5R)-5-hydroxypipecolic acid, 1-aminocyclopropane-1-
-amino-n-butyric acid, (2S,4R)-4-
-pipecolic acid and 2-aminoethanol. Traces of 5-
and L-allo-isoleucine was also presented in Ajwa dates (Ali et al.,
2014). These non-proteinogenic amino acids bind with the anti-
bodies and produce T lymphocytes, detoxify harmful chemicals in
liver and results in reduction of creatinine in the human body.
However, no literature was available on amino acid composition of
Ajwa date pits.
2.3. Minerals and vitamins
Dietary minerals are essential chemicals that are needed by the
human body for maintaining skeleton structure, cellular func-
tioning and biochemical reactions. Therefore, a certain amount of
these minerals is essential for optimum growth and maintenance of
human body. In this regards Ajwa date fruit (both ﬂesh and pits) can
be considered as the richest source of dietary minerals (Table 2b)
among all other date varieties (Assirey, 2015; Khalid et al., 2016). It
has been reported that variation among Ajwa date parts may come
as a result of variation in genetic makeup, soil mineral contents and
fertilizers effect. The date ﬂesh was found to be enriched in man-
ganese (0.4 mg/100 g), magnesium (1.5 mg/100 g), sodium (7.5 mg/
100 g) and potassium (4.8 mg/100 g). Whereas, Ajwa pits have
maximum concentrations of zinc (1.9 mg/100 g), potassium
(4.7 mg/100 g), phosphorous (2.7 mg/100 g) and calcium (2.3 mg/
100 g). The maturity stages effect the composition of minerals in
Ajwa date, mostly from Kimri to the Tamre stage (Gasim, 1994). The
Amino acids and mineral composition of Ajwa dates. (a) Amino acid composition of Ajwa date ﬂesh from different studies. Ajwa date ﬂesh is rich in both essential and
non-essential amino acids. (b) Mineral contents of Ajwa date fruit and pit. The values are reported in %age dry matter.
Amino acids Assirey, 2015 (mg/100 g) DW
Hamad et al., 2015
Ali et al., 2014
Alanine 82 9.2 0.75e1.16
Arginine 93 1.42 0.45e1.23
Asparagine 186 0.26 1.29e2.80
Cysteine e0.001 0.89e1.38
Glutamate 205 0.8 1.76e3.79
Glycine 83 65 1.04e1.98
Histidine 26 0.99 0.36e0.54
Isoleucine 44 0.15 0.55e0.80
Leucine 57 0.02 0.89e1.32
Lysine 73 7.3 0.75e1.14
Methionine 27 0.021 0.03e0.23
Phenylalanine 45 0.99 0.62e0.87
Proline 86 16 1.04e1.98
Serine 59 0.19 0.48e0.74
Threonine 53 e0.59e0.81
Tryptophan 44 0.027 e
Tyrosine e0.80 0.22e0.51
Valine 65 3.13 0.66e0.95
Ajwa Date Minerals Khalid et al., 2016
Hamad et al., 2015
Flesh Manganese 0.36e0.5 e0.31
Magnesium 1.5 e35.94
Sodium 7.5e8.1 7.5 7.01
Potassium 6.45 476.3 290.02
Zinc 0.46e0.52 e1.20
Phosphorus 1.9e2.3 27.0 53.82
Calcium 2.0 187.0 0.339
Iron 0.15e0.5 e0.15
Cadmium 0.001e0.005 e0.001
Copper 0.37e0.5 e0.37
Pits Zinc 1.91 e
Potassium 4.60 e
Calcium 2.0 e
DM ¼Dry matter, FW ¼Fresh weight.
S. Khalid et al. / Trends in Food Science &Technology 63 (2017) 60e6962
nitrogen content decreases from 1.23% to 0.82%, phosphorus
(0.21e0.09%), potassium (1.30e0.65%), calcium (0.32e0.18%),
magnesium (0.27e0.20%), similar is the trend with other trace of
iron copper and zinc during shifting from Kimri to the Tamre stage.
However, the concentration of these minerals are high in compar-
ison to other cultivars like Beid, Burni, Rabeia and Safawi (Gasim,
Vitamins, such as
-carotene (provitamin A),
(vitamin C), thiamine (vitamin B
), riboﬂavin (vitamin B
nicotinic acid (niacin) are known to be present in dates (M. A. Al-
Farsi &Lee, 2008; Al-Shahib &Marshall, 2003). Ajwa dates
contain high contents of provitamin A and vitamin C (Sawaya, Saﬁ,
Black, Mashadi, &Al Muhammad, 1983).
2.4. Dietary ﬁber
Dietary ﬁbers play an important role in human health. Low
amount of dietary ﬁber can cause severe health problems such as
constipation, cancer and lowers cholesterol contents in human
body. Based on published reports Ajwa date ﬂesh and pits are
enriched source of total dietary ﬁber (TDF), soluble dietary ﬁber
(SDF) and insoluble dietary ﬁber (IDF) (Assirey, 2015; Khalid et al.,
2016). Ajwa date ﬂesh has TDF contents ranging from 6.2 to 8.9%
while Ajwa pits have TDF contents in the range between 26.4 and
33.9%. Similarly, Ajwa ﬂesh has SDF varying from 6.2 to 13.5% while
pits have a range between 13.5 and 22.5%. In the same context Ajwa
ﬂesh has IDF varying from 3.2 to 4.6% whereas Ajwa pits have
variation between 11.2 and 12.8% (Khalid et al., 2016). The roasted
Ajwa date pit have SDF of 7.0%, IDF 72.1% and TDF of 79.2%, these
values are relative high in comparison to Ajwa date ﬂesh (Ahmed,
Arshad, Saeed, Ahmed, &Chatha, 2016).
The Ajwa date lipids are regarded as oleic-linoleic lipids. The
total lipid yield is about 8.9% and dominating triacylglycerol (TAG)
species include dilinoleoyl-1-oleoylsn-glycerol (OLL) and 1,2-
dioleoyl-3-linoleoyl-sn-glycerol (OOL) (Galeb et al., 2012). Ajwa
date has good lipid quality indices with acid value of 1.5 mg KOH/g,
iodine value of 59.9 g I
/100 g. The free fatty acid %age of Ajwa date
is about 3.1% (Galeb et al., 2012). The total saturated fatty acid
(SFAs) constitutes about 21.2% while the total unsaturated fatty acid
constitutes 75.26% of Ajwa date seed. Palmitic acid (10.3%), myristic
acid (5.6%), lauric acid (3.2%) and steric acid (2.1%) are the dominant
SFAs in Ajwa date seeds. USFAs comprises oleic acid (66.1%), linoleic
acid (8.3%) and linoleic acid (0.86%) (Galeb et al., 2012). The Ajwa
seed oil composition is of superior quality in comparison to other
date varieties like Barni and can be used as vehicle for transversal
enhancer in pharmaceutical industry (Galeb et al., 2012).
3. Phytochemicals in Ajwa date fruit
Phytochemicals having strong antioxidant activities are inter-
cellular plant metabolites which have potential health beneﬁts
such as prevention of cancer, diabetes and cardiovascular maladies
(M. Al-Farsi &Lee, 2008). Ajwa date fruit is enriched with poly-
phenols, ﬂavonoids including rutin, catechins, iso-ﬂavonoids, ste-
rols, lignans which are important for lowering cholesterol level and
thus reducing cardiovascular related illnesses (Hamad et al., 2015;
Samad, Hashim, Simarani, &Yaacob, 2016). The quantities of
these phenolic and antioxidant compounds may vary in different
Ajwa fruit parts depending on genetic makeup, experimental
conditions for analysis and extent of hydration (Al-Laith, 2009; Al-
Turki, Shahba, &Stushnoff, 2010; Amor
os et al., 2009). Similarly,
extraction procedure, status of fruit (Fresh or dried) and the solvent
used for extraction can affect the quality and quantity of phyto-
chemicals in dates (Al-Farsi, Alasalvar, Morris, Baron, &Shahidi,
2005). This section reviews the phytochemical contents of Ajwa
3.1. Phenolic compounds
The phenolic compounds are secondary metabolites, catego-
rized by the presence of monophenolic or polyphenolic aromatic
carbon rings with hydroxyl group attached to functional carbon.
However, their nature, formulation and distribution in date palm
fruit is dependent on date palm variety, growing conditions and
extraction procedures (Al-Laith, 2009; Al-Turki et al., 2010; Amor
et al., 2009). The total phenolic content of Ajwa fruit varied be-
tween 245 and 455 mg/100 g. However, the extraction solvent plays
a signiﬁcant role. The contents are always higher in aqueous extract
in comparison to alcoholic extracts (Hamad et al., 2015; Saleh,
Tawﬁk, &Abu-Tarboush, 2011). The higher phenolic contents in
aqueous solution might be due to polarity of aqueous solution and
further depends on method of extraction. The phenolic composi-
tion of Ajwa dates include rutin (0.65e0.85 mg/100 g), catechin
(0.73 mg/100 g) and caffeic acid (0.57e1.84 mg/100) (Ahmed et al.,
2016; Hamad et al., 2015; Saleh et al., 2011). The phenolic content of
Ajwa date(10 mg/100 g-290 mg/100 g) also varied according to the
ripening stage. The Ajwa date contain higher polyphenol content at
kimri stage (290 mg/100 g) followed by khalal (150 mg/100 g),
rutab (20 mg/100 g) and tamr (10 mg/100 g) stage (Eid, Al-Awadi,
Vauzour, Oruna-Concha, &Spencer, J. P., 2013; Eid, Al-Awadi,
Vauzour, Oruna-Concha, &Spencer, J. P.E., 2013).
Hamad, et al. (2015) found p-coumaric acid, gallic acid and
ferulic acid derivatives were the most dominant phenolic com-
pounds in Ajwa dates. Similarly, Eid, Al-Awadi, Vauzour, Oruna-
Concha, &Spencer, J. P. (2013); Eid, Al-Awadi, Vauzour, Oruna-
Concha, &Spencer, J. P.E. (2013) found protocatechuic acid,
hydroxybenzoic acid, vanillic acid, gallic acid, isovanillic acid,
chlorogenic acid, ferulic acid, isoferulic acid, caffeic acid, hydrox-
ycinnamic acid and chlorogenic acid as the main phenolic com-
pounds and acid with different ripening stages of Ajwa date.
Ahmed et al. (2016) pointed gallic acid, caffeic acid, chlorogenic
acid, syringic acid, p-coumeric acid, m-coumeric acid and ferulic
acid as dominant phenols and acids in roasted Ajwa pits. Table 3a
shows composition of different phenolic compounds present in
3.2. Flavonoids and minor components
Polyphenolic ﬂavonoids are the most abundant phenolic com-
pounds found in Ajwa dates with pervasive dispersal. These poly-
phenolic compounds are mainly present within fruit skins in high
concentrations with immense health beneﬁts such as antioxidant
and free radical scavenging activities. These are effective in mini-
mizing chronic and cardiovascular diseases with positive effect
against proliferation of damaged cells (Eid et al., 2014). These ﬂa-
vonoids can be classiﬁed in different sub-classes such as ﬂavones,
ﬂavonols, iso-ﬂavones and anthocyanins. Ajwa date fruit is
enriched with active ﬂavonoids including quercetin, isoquercetin,
luteolin, apgenin, and rutin (Hamad et al., 2015; Ragab, Elkablawy,
Sheik, &Baraka, 2013). Hamad et al. (2015) determined total
ﬂavonoid content of Ajwa date fruit around 2.79 mg/100 g. The
detailed ﬂavonoid composition of Ajwa date is presented in
Table 3b. The Ajwa date pit contains quercetin (1.35 mg/100 g) as
the dominant ﬂavonoid (Ahmed et al., 2016). The most common
ﬂavonoids found in plantae kingdom are ﬂavonols. Ajwa date ﬂesh
and pits are enriched with ﬂavonols which occur commonly as O-
glycosides. However, concentrations of these compounds
S. Khalid et al. / Trends in Food Science &Technology 63 (2017) 60e69 63
Phenolic and ﬂavonoids composition of Ajwa dates. (a) Phenolic composition of Ajwa date fruit and pit from different literature. (b) Flavonoids composition of Ajwa date fruit
from different literature.
Phenolic acid Structure Quantity
(mg/100 g DW)
Caffeic acid 0.026e0.050 Hamad et al. (2015)
Saleh et al. (2011)
Ragab et al. (2013)
Ahmed et al. (2016)
Ferullic acid 2.52e3.20 Hamad et al. (2015)
Ahmed et al. (2016)
Protocatechuic acid 1.27e2.20 Hamad et al. (2015)
Saleh et al. (2011)
Catechin 0.50e0.80 Hamad et al. (2015)
Saleh et al. (2011)
Ragab et al. (2013)
Gallic acid 13.90e14.10 Hamad et al. (2015)
Ahmed et al. (2016)
p-coumanic acid 3.08e3.50 Hamad et al. (2015)
Ahmed et al. (2016)
Chlorogenic acid 0.18e0.20 Hamad et al. (2015)
Ahmed et al. (2016)
Resorcinol acid 0.03e0.05 Hamad et al. (2015)
Total phenols 22.10e455.80 Hamad et al. (2015)
Saleh et al. (2011)
Flavonoids Structure Quantity (mg/100 g DW) References
Quercetin 1.21 Hamad et al. (2015)
Ahmed et al. (2016)
Luteolin 0.04 Hamad et al. (2015)
Ahmed et al. (2016)
S. Khalid et al. / Trends in Food Science &Technology 63 (2017) 60e6964
extensively varied between ﬂesh and pits of Ajwa fruit (Ahmed
et al., 2016; Hamad et al., 2015). Recently, chrysoeriol-7-O-(2,6-
dirhamnosyl)-glucoside (Fig. 2a) have been identiﬁed in Ajwa
date fruit (Zhang, Adosari, Vidyasagar, P. S. P. V., 2013; Zhang,
Aldosari, Vidyasagar, P. S., 2013). Eid, Al-Awadi, Vauzour, Oruna-
Concha, &Spencer, J. P. (2013); Eid, Al-Awadi, Vauzour, Oruna-
Concha, &Spencer, J. P.E. (2013) studied the ﬂavonoid composi-
tion of Ajwa dates at different ripening stages and found signiﬁcant
quantities of quercetin, myricetin, naringenin, apigenin, luteolin
and kaempferol using LC-MS/MS techniques.
The other minor components in Ajwa date fruit include tri-
terpenoids like lupeol and lup-20(29)-en-3-one (Fig. 2b and c) and
-O-palmitate (Fig. 2def) and phthalates
like bis(2-ethylheptyl) phthalate, bis(2-ethylhexyl) terephthalate
(Fig. 2g and h) (Zhang, Adosari, Vidyasagar, P. S. P. V., 2013; Zhang,
Aldosari, Vidyasagar, P. S., 2013). These bioactive compounds of
Ajwa date contribute towards anti-inﬂammatory and antioxidant
properties. The Ajwa date also contain signiﬁcant amount of
anthocyanidins and are present mostly in kimri stage (Eid, Al-
Awadi, Vauzour, Oruna-Concha, &Spencer, J. P., 2013; Eid, Al-
Awadi, Vauzour, Oruna-Concha, &Spencer, J. P.E., 2013). The Ajwa
date contain few important organic acids like succinic acid, oxalic
acid, malic acid, citric acid, isobutyric acid and formic acid. These
acids further improves the functionality of Ajwa dates (Hamad
et al., 2015).
4. Biological and pharmacological activities of Ajwa date
The efﬁcacy of drugs usage has been decreased due to the
emergence of resistance and tolerance in the existing drugs.
Therefore, an increasing trend to replace the synthetic drugs with
natural products (plants sources) has been observed in pharma-
ceutical industry. These natural sources are enriched with phyto-
chemicals which have higher disease preventing characteristics
(Chirumbolo, 2012). Ajwa date is used traditionally and historically
against different diseases due to its anti-inﬂammatory, hepa-toxic,
anti-cancer and most importantly against cardiac function
improvement (Table 4)(Al-Yahya et al., 2015; Hussain Mallhi, Qadir,
Ali, Ahmad, &Khan, 2014; Ragab et al., 2013). In the following
sections pharmacological properties of Ajwa ﬂesh and pit is
4.1. Antioxidant activity
Ajwa date fruits are widely consumed in the Arabian countries
and the strong antioxidant activity is due to higher phenolics,
melatonin, carotenoids and vitamins contents (Al-Farsi et al., 2005;
Al-Farsi &Lee, 2008; Chaira et al., 2009). The antioxidant activity of
Ajwa fruit have mostly been evaluated in aqueous and alcoholic
extracts. The antioxidants in Ajwa fruit are mostly hydrophilic and
poses strong antioxidant activity in lipid membrane system (Al-
Farsi et al., 2005). Saleh et al. (2011) pointed strong antioxidant
activity of Ajwa fruit aqueous extract in comparison to alcoholic
extracts. The MTT (3-(4,5-Dimethylthiazol-2-yl)-2,5-Diphenylte-
trazolium Bromide) assay with ethyl acetate, methanolic, and water
extracts of Ajwa dates at 250
g/mL inhibited lipid peroxidation by
88, 70, and 91% (Zhang, Adosari, Vidyasagar, P. S. P. V., 2013; Zhang,
Aldosari, Vidyasagar, P. S., 2013). The rabbit experimental modeling
with ethanolic extract of Ajwa dates showed increased levels of
serum antioxidant enzymes together with reduction in lipid hy-
droperoxides in lead intoxicated rabbits (Ragab et al., 2013). The
possible pathway through which Ajwa dates exert antioxidant ef-
fect is the suppression of free radicals, that in turn reduces the
proliferation of disease. Other studies have conﬁrmed these strong
antioxidant effect of Ajwa dates (Ahmed et al., 2016; Al-Yahya et al.,
2015; Zhang et al., 2015). Recently, Al-Yahya et al. (2015) evaluated
that Ajwa date extracts prevents the depletion of vital antioxidants
like glutathione peroxidase, superoxide dismutase and carnitine
acyltransferase. In a recent study with different extracts of Ajwa
fruit and pit by Arshad, Jelani, Haroon, and Masood (2015) showed
strong antioxidant with 74.19
g/mL of gallic acid equivalents in
methanolic extracts. Moreover, they pointed strong radical scav-
enging activity in DPPH and lipid peroxidation assays in acetone
Table 3 (continued )
Flavonoids Structure Quantity (mg/100 g DW) References
Rutin 0.86 Hamad et al. (2015)
Ahmed et al. (2016)
Saleh et al. (2011)
Iso-quercetin 0.41 Hamad et al. (2015)
Ahmed et al. (2016)
Apigenin 0.26 Hamad et al. (2015)
Ahmed et al. (2016)
Total Flavonoids 2.78 Hamad et al. (2015)
(Ahmed et al. (2016))
S. Khalid et al. / Trends in Food Science &Technology 63 (2017) 60e69 65
extracts of Ajwa dates. However, they mentioned remarkable
radical scavenging activity of aqueous extracts of Ajwa pits in
comparison to other solvents (Arshad et al., 2015).
4.2. Antiviral, antifungal and antibacterial activities
Jassim and Naji (2010) investigated the antiviral activity of
acetone extracted ajwa date pit against Pseudomonas phage. The
results showed antiviral activity with MIC <10
g/mL. The factors
like concentration exponent, phage inactivation kinetics and deci-
mal reduction time strongly depicting antiviral potential of pit
extract. The Ajwa date extract might be an inexpensive way to
protect patient from viral infections by inhibiting the infectivity of
phage lysis and future reserach should be carried out to determine
the potenial of extracts for HIV treatment (Jassim &Naji, 2010).
It was reported that aqeuous, methanol and acetone extracts of
leaves and pits of Ajwa dates inhibited the growth of F. solani, F.
oxysporum, Alternaria spp., A. alternata, Fusarium sp.,A.ﬂavus and
Trichoderma sp. The leave extract showed inhibitory activity of
51.5% against A. Alternata, while the inhibitory activity of 29.4%,
38.5% and 6.3% was observed against F. solani, F. Fusarium and
F. oxysporium. The Ajwa pits also showed inhibitory activity of 40.9%
against A. Alternata and 38.5% against F. Fusarium, mild activity was
also observed against F. solani and F. oxysporium. Moreover, the
trend of activity was as methanolic pits extract >methanolic leaves
extract >acetone pits extract >acetone leaves extract (Bokhari &
Fig. 2. Different phytochemicals present in Ajwa date fruit. The phytochemicals diversity ranged from triterpenoids to steroids and to phthalates.
S. Khalid et al. / Trends in Food Science &Technology 63 (2017) 60e6966
Perveen, 2012). The antifungal activity of Ajwa date in dichlor-
omethanalic extract was also reported by Boulenouar, Marouf, and
Bacterial resistance is one of the major challenge against anti-
microbial drugs. To overcome the problem of resistance, the use of
natural products and their constituents is a good approach to
control the infection as they are inexpensive and also having no
side effects (Al-Daihan &Bhat, 2010). The Ajwa date and its con-
stituents play a signiﬁcant effect in the treatment of bacterial dis-
eases. The methanol and acetone extracts of the Ajwa dates pits
reasonably inhibited the growth of Gram positive and Gram
negative bacteria (Aamir, Kumari, Khan, &Medam, 2013; Jassim &
Naji, 2010). Ajwa dates inhibits the activity of Escherichia coli and
Klebsiella pneumonia and also inhibit the reducing effect of meth-
ylprednisolone (Aamir et al., 2013). Methanolic extract of Ajwa
dates are also effective against enteric diseases, since it suppresses
the activity of Enterococcus fecalis (Aamir et al., 2013). The meth-
anolic extract of Ajwa date is effective against Escherichia coli,Ba-
cillus cereus,Staphylococcus aureus and Serratia marcescens (Samad
et al., 2016).
4.3. Anti-inﬂammatory activity
Inﬂammation is one of the important physiological defense
mechanisms against various factors such as infection, burn, toxic
chemicals, allergens and other stimuli (Sharma, Dubey, Sati, &
Sanadya, 2011). Excessive production of free radicals from acti-
vated inﬂammatory leukocytes causes many problems like diabetes
and arthritis (Zhang et al., 2015). The disturbance in inﬂammatory
mechanism results in development and progression of various
disorders. Transcription factors (LOX and NF-kB) play an important
role in the inﬂammation, diabetes, cancer and other diseases. So the
critical step in the prevention of disease is the proper regulation of
transcription factors. Previous studies have shown that constitu-
ents of plants such as ﬂavonoids and phenolics act as excellent anti-
inﬂammatory agents (Talhouk, Karam, Fostok, El-Jouni, &Barbour,
2007). It was investigated that methanolic and aqueous extract
Ajwa date possess anti-inﬂammatory properties in albino rats by
increasing levels of COX 1 and 2 enzymes. The ethyl acetate,
methanolic, and water extracts of Ajwa dates inhibit the lipid
peroxidation cyclooxygenase enzymes COX-1 and COX2. These
studies have also shown that Ajwa date constituents such as
polyphenols, ﬁber, steroids and minerals possess anti-
inﬂammatory effects (Zhang, Adosari, Vidyasagar, P. S. P. V., 2013;
Zhang, Aldosari, Vidyasagar, P. S., 2013; Zhang et al., 2015; C.
Zhang, Aldosari, Vidyasagar, Shukla, &Nair, 2014). lyophilized
extract of Ajwa dates at concentration of 250
the expression of pro-inﬂammatory cytokines like IL-6, IL-10 and
together with apoptotic markers like caspase-3 and Bax in
both ex vivo and in vivo models (Al-Yahya et al., 2015). Similarly,
lyophilized extract of Ajwa dates at concentration of 250
(Fig. 1) reduces edema, myonecrosis and inﬁltration of inﬂamma-
tory cells in cardiomyocytes architecture and shows strong car-
dioprotective effects in rodent model (Al-Yahya et al., 2015). Abdul-
Hamid et al. (2015) showed strong nitric oxide (NO) inhibiting ac-
tivity of different extracts of Ajwa dates using NMR approach. Their
study demonstrated that extraction solvent is the critical factor that
affects the NO inhibiting activity of Ajwa date extract. Moreover,
freeze dried and methanol extracts of Ajwa dates shows the
remarkable NO inhibiting activity in comparison to other extracts
(Abdul-Hamid et al., 2015).
4.4. Nephrotoxic and hepatoprotective activities
Nephrotoxicity is a usual side effect of many antibiotic drugs
whose amelioration is necessary. Ochratoxin is a mycotoxin
generated by these antibiotics can affect the human kidney leading
to kidney failure (Kalantaripour, Shekaari, Basiri, &Najar, 2012).
Awatef Ali, Susan Abdu, and Sasha Alansari (2011a, b) investigated
the potential anti-toxic effect of Ajwa dates in rabbits against
ochratoxin. Oral dosage of ochratoxin signiﬁcantly increased the
serum creatinine and urea level in rabbits and damaged the prox-
imal tubules. On the other hand, Ajwa date extracts reduced the
serum creatinine and urea levels. However, combination of Ajwa
date extract with ochratoxin reduces the severity of lesions (Ali
et al., 2011a; Ali et al., 2011b). Bakr Abdu (2011) demonstrated
the therapeutic effect of Ajwa date aqueous extract against the
hepatotoxicity induced by ochratoxin A in rats. The treatment
signiﬁcantly reduces the bilirubin and ALT enzyme activity in rats
pretreated with Ajwa date aqueous extract. Another study reported
the positive effects of Ajwa fruit and pit in gentamicin treated
nephrotoxicity rat model. The in-cooperation of Ajwa fruit with
Health beneﬁts of Ajwa date fruit and pit from different literatures. The activities were observed in different extraction solvents and using both in vitro and in vivo approaches.
Observations and references
Antioxidant activity Scavenges free radical activity and reduces lipid peroxidation and prevented depletion of CAT, SOD, NP-SH antioxidants (Al-Yahya et al., 2015;
Saleh et al., 2011; Zhang, Adosari, Vidyasagar, P. S. P. V., 2013; Zhang, Aldosari, Vidyasagar, P. S., 2013; Zhang et al., 2015).
Anti-microbial activity Methanolic extract of Ajwa dates inhibits the growth of E.coli,S. marcescens,B. cereus and S. aureus (Samad et al., 2016).
Methanolic Ajwa extracts have showed 22e41% inhibition to COX-I enzyme and 48e52% inhibition to Cox-II enzyme in albino rats (Zhang, Adosari,
Vidyasagar, P. S. P. V., 2013; Zhang, Aldosari, Vidyasagar, P. S., 2013).
Antitoxic effect Strong inhibitory effect against lead acetate toxicity in rabbits with signiﬁcant restoration of SGPT, SGOT, ALP,TD, SOD and GPx levels (Ragab et al.,
Protection against ochratoxin A-toxicity in albino rats with decreased levels of serum creatinine and urea levels in kidney (Ali et al., 2011b, 2011a).
Effect on male fertility Increased progressive sperms motility and decreased non-progressive immortal sperms morphology (Wahyudi, Retno, &Andi, 2015).
Protective effect and ameliorated lesions of Ochratoxin nephrotoxicity (Ali et al., 2011b, 2011a; Ali et al., 2011b, 2011a).
Antitumor activity Methanolic Ajwa extracts showed marginal cells proliferation inhibitory effect against gastric, prostrate, colon, breast and lung tumor cell lines
(Zhang, Adosari, Vidyasagar, P. S. P. V., 2013; Zhang, Aldosari, Vidyasagar, P. S., 2013).
Hypolipidemic effect Ajwa liquid extracts reduced total cholesterol, triglycerides, LDL and increased HDL-C levels in Wister rats (Al-Yahya et al., 2015).
Antidiabetic effect Ajwa pits showed restoration of liver and kidney functions and signiﬁcantly reduces glucose levels in induced diabetic a rats (Hasan &Mohieldein,
Positive effects by lowering hepatic marker enzymes (SGPT and SGOT) and correct albumin levels (Sheikh et al., 2014).
Effect on gastric
Signiﬁcant increase in bowl movement and stool frequency while reduction in human fecal water and colon cancer risk (Eid et al., 2014; Eid et al.,
S. Khalid et al. / Trends in Food Science &Technology 63 (2017) 60e69 67
food (50% (w/w)) or pit with water (2:1 (w/v)) signiﬁcantly
decrease the plasma creatinine and urea concentrations (Al-
Qarawi, Abdel-Rahman, Mousa, Ali, &El-Mougy, 2008). Feeding
Ajwa date extract (300 mg/kg/day for 14 days) signiﬁcantly
inhibited the depletion of antioxidants in albino rats when induced
with lead acetate toxicity (Ragab et al., 2013). Similar results are
also reported with carbon tetrachloride (CCl
) induced toxicity in
rat model by Sheikh, Elsaed, Samman, Sheikh, and Ladin (2014).
4.5. Antidiabetic activity
The plants play a major role to treat the diabetes and its
complication including diabetic retinopathy via modulation of
metabolic and molecular pathways (Gupta et al., 2011). The phy-
tochemicals have ability to control the functions of pancreatic tis-
sues by enhancing the production of insulin and reduce the
absorption of glucose in the intestinal wall. The antidiabetic activity
in Ajwa extracts might be due to saponins, phenol, steroids and
ﬂavonoids, which play a major role in stopping diabetes (Hussain
Mallhi et al., 2014). The phenolic compounds reducing effect of
glucosidase enzymes, that effect the absorption of glucose in small
intestine and kidneys. Moreover, the phenolic compounds also
modulate the secretion of insulin in human body. The strong
antioxidant proﬁle of Ajwa fruit can plays a strong antidiabetic role
by scavenging the free radicals (Zhang et al., 2015). Aqueous Ajwa
seed extract in concentration of 100 g/L brings a reduction in blood
glucose level in streptozotocin induced diabetic rats. Moreover,
prolong use of Ajwa seed extract restores the function of liver and
kidneys and balance the oxidative stress conditions in streptozo-
tocin induced diabetic rats (Hasan &Mohieldein, 2016).
4.6. Anticancer activity
It has been reported that aqueous and methanolic extracts of
Ajwa dates at concentration of 100
g/mL inhibited the marginal
cell proliferation against human gastric, lung, breast and colon cell
lines (. Zhang et al., 2015). These beneﬁcial anti-tumor effect of
Ajwa dates are due to the presence of ﬂavonoids especially quer-
cetin, steroids and polyphenols (Hussain Mallhi et al., 2014). The
bioactives of Ajwa dates increase the activities of antioxidant en-
zymes such as SOD, GST, and catalase in body which inhibits the
proliferation of damaged cells there by reducing the chances of
mutagenesis. Ajwa dates have a cyclo-oxygenase inhibitory effect
(Zhang, Adosari, Vidyasagar, P. S. P. V., 2013; Zhang, Aldosari,
Vidyasagar, P. S., 2013) that is similar to commercial anti-
inﬂammatory drugs like aspirin, ibuprofen, celebrex and nap-
roxen. Ajwa date extract and Ajwa polyphenols are effective on
inhibiting the growth of colon adenocarcinoma cell growth and
also maintain bowel health (Eid et al., 2014). Moreover, Ajwa date
extract also maintain and resist changes in microbiota (Eid et al.,
The data analysis from the last few decades suggests that ajwa
date fruit has a potential to become an essential food ingredient for
developing new bioactive functional food products targeted at
various physiological functions of human body. This review has
provided a guideline to proceed further in establishing the efﬁcacy
of various observed medicinal effects including anti-cancer, gastro-
protective, hepato-protective and nephro-protective activities.
These observed pharmacological properties are attributed to the
presence of high concentrations of phtyochemicals and minerals
stangled diverse chemical structures. These pharmacological ef-
fects can be tried and tested in neutraceuticals and functional foods
development in pharmaceuticals and food manufacturing industry.
This will provide an opportunity for the food companies to develop
radically innovative functional food products. This will further
enable the food companies to compete in the global health and
wellness market by introducing these bioactive functional food
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