Theobroma cacao L. (Sterculiaceae) and cocoa-derived products are phenolics-rich food; these products are largely studied because of the antioxidant and antiradical in vitro properties of phenolic constituents. Cocoa hulls are the principal by-product of cocoa, separated from the cotyledons during the pre-roasting process or after the roasting process of T. cacao beans (de-hulling/de-husking step). This by-product is a matrix rich in fiber (namely insoluble, but also represented by pectins) and phenolics. Supercritical CO2is a powerful mild technology able to extract and fractionate from plant or animal foods without the use of organic solvent. This approach was used to extract some phenolics fractions from cocoa hulls. Only two recovered fractions, (150 bar, 50°C, re-dissolved in acetone; 200 bar, 50°C, re-dissolved in acetone), apparently free from (-)epicatechin, catechin and phenolic acids, showed protective action in an in vitro test (SH-SY5Y cells, differentiated to a neuronal phenotype using retinoic acid and then exposed to ischemic damage), similar to the action of cabergoline and vitamin E. We suggest the use of supercritical CO2for the isolation of bioactive fractions from cocoa hulls and an in vitro model as a useful model to study the antioxidant/antiradical properties of isolated phenolic pigments. © 2005 Elsevier Ltd. All rights reserved.
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