Friday, July 1, 2022

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Why Your Skin And Streets Need Antioxidants

Take a moment to examine the images below. What do you notice? What do you wonder? Keep track of your ideas on the Olives and Antioxidants Worksheet.

Phenomenon #1

Left: Olive pomace, and olive oil byproduct. Right: Asphalt made from 100% bio-mixture of olive oil byproduct. Credit: Selina Wang

Did you notice that the material in the left image has similar coloring to the material in the right image? Olive pomace (material in the left image) was added to the paving material in the right image. Not quite what you would expect in paving material, right? Why would you add olives to road paving material?

Phenomenon #2
Take a look at the collection of images below. What do you notice and wonder about each? What might they have in common?

An image of hands touching dyed fabric, a picture of cracked pavement, an image of a browning avocado, and an image of french fries in a frying basket being browned
Aging hands, cracked concrete, browning avocado, and french fries being fried. What do these images have in common? Credit (clockwise from upper left): belodarova via 123rf, juver123 via 123rf, YuanruLi via iStock, jaboo2foto via iStock

You might have notice color changes, wrinkles, and cracks. What might be causing that to happen? Well, this is all related to why we might use olive pomace in road paving. Let’s explore this phenomenon further by looking at the different properties of plants like olives and how they or their byproducts can be used to solve real-world problems.

Oxidation Activity

Like we discussed before, the smashed olives must be added to the roads for a reason, but what is that reason? What is the problem that the olives are being used to solve? What properties of the olives are contributing to the road-building material? To figure this out, we’re going to investigate other foods that share properties with olives, to see if we can uncover their common characteristics.

First, take a moment to create a model on your Olives and Antioxidants Worksheet that explains your current ideas about what might be going on with our olives and cement. If you can, work with someone else and compare your models. Are there ideas that you might want to incorporate from that discussion?


Olives And Antioxidants Worksheet

Small piece of milk chocolate (10-50%) (one per student)

Small piece of dark chocolate (50-90%) (one per student)

Lemon juice (1 tsp per group)

Apples-sliced into circle slices (3 per group)

Paper plates

Water (1 tsp per group)


After learning how antioxidants affect food browning, let’s see what foods rich in antioxidants can do for our skin. Take notes on your worksheet at you watch the video.

Reflection Questions

  • Looking at your evidence, what can you now explain about our original phenomenon?
  • Revise your model to explain why adding olive mash to cement might be helpful.
  • Brainstorm other ways antioxidants might be used to help solve problems.

So What Is Going On? Antioxidants At Work!

Selina Wang is a Food Chemist at the Olive Center at the University of California in Davis. In one area of her lab’s research, Want studies different foods that contain antioxidants like chocolate, grapes, and olives. Olive oil has many health benefits, including being high in antioxidants.

Dr. Selina Wang is wearing safety goggles and a white lab coat and purple latex gloves, and is holding up and looking into a beaker with dark liquid in it
Dr. Selina Wang in her laboratory. Credit: Selina Wang

All olives grow on trees. Olive oil is made from grinding up olives, letting them sit for a bit, and then extracting the oil that is formed. Here is a picture of the olive mash that is left behind after the oil is extracted; it is called pomace. Only 20% of the olive is used in olive oil! What happens to the rest? Olive pomace is still filled with a ton of antioxidants, so Selina Wang is working to find ways we can use it to solve a range of problems. As part of her efforts, she partnered with a cement company. After grinding up the pomace to a fine texture, they add it to their cement for road paving. Can you guess what the antioxidants left in the olive pomace are doing to the roads?

Photo looks down into two beakers with dark brown-green sludge that is chopped up olive pomace, a byproduct of the olive oil making process
Olive pomace, and olive oil byproduct. Credit: Selina Wang

Just as the antioxidants in the lemon juice kept your apple from browning, the antioxidants in the olive pomace are stopping the roads from cracking. How cool is that?!

Antioxidants infographic. Credit: Danny Miller

Source: ScienceFriday

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