Cinnamon Essential Oils May Protect Stored Wheat from Harmful Fungi and Toxins

Jenn Hoskins
14th May, 2024

Cinnamon Essential Oils May Protect Stored Wheat from Harmful Fungi and Toxins

Image Source: Natural Science News, 2024

Key Findings

  • The study by Zagazig University focused on preventing aflatoxigenic fungi in stored wheat grains
  • Cinnamon oil was found to reduce aflatoxin production by 85-90% at a concentration of 0.125%
  • The antifungal activity of cinnamon oil also suppressed key genes involved in aflatoxin biosynthesis by 94-96%
Wheat is a vital crop for both human and animal nutrition, but its storage poses significant challenges, particularly the risk of contamination by aflatoxigenic fungi, which thrive under improper storage conditions and high humidity. A recent study conducted by Zagazig University aimed to address this issue by investigating the use of various essential oils to prevent the growth of aflatoxigenic fungi in stored wheat grains[1]. The study focused on Aspergillus flavus, a fungus known for its potent aflatoxin production. Three isolates of A. flavus, identified as EFBL-MU12 PP087400, EFBL-MU23 PP087401, and EFBL-MU36 PP087403, were found to be the most prolific producers of aflatoxins in wheat grains. The researchers examined the effects of different storage conditions, such as humidity, temperature, incubation period, and pH, on the growth of A. flavus using a statistical technique known as response surface methodology. They found that the highest yields of aflatoxins B1 and B2 were produced at an incubation temperature of 35°C, 16% moisture content, an initial pH of 5.0, and an incubation period of 14 days. To combat this contamination, the study tested the antifungal activity of various essential oils. Cinnamon oil emerged as the most effective, showing an 85-90% reduction in aflatoxin production, conidial pigmentation, and chitin content on wheat grains at a concentration of 0.125%. This was confirmed by scanning electron microscopy (SEM) analysis, which revealed significant morphological damage to A. flavus, including aberrations in conidial heads, vegetative mycelia, and conidiophores, as well as shrunken and winding hyphae. The study also explored the molecular mechanisms behind the antifungal activity of essential oils. Using RT-qPCR, the researchers measured the expression of several genes involved in aflatoxin biosynthesis, including nor-1, afLR, pKsA, and afLJ. They found that cinnamon oil at a concentration of 0.062% suppressed the expression of these genes by 94-96% compared to the control. These findings build on previous research that has highlighted the challenges of mycotoxin contamination in staple foods. For instance, a review of mycotoxin contamination in Southern Africa pointed out the health risks and economic losses associated with mycotoxins, particularly in maize and peanuts[2]. The review emphasized the need for better agricultural practices and legislation to control mycotoxin levels. Additionally, another study developed quantitative PCR assays to detect aflatoxin-producing fungi in wheat flour, underscoring the importance of early diagnosis and control in the food supply chain[3]. The Zagazig University study contributes significantly to this body of knowledge by providing a practical solution to prevent aflatoxin contamination in wheat grains. By demonstrating the effectiveness of cinnamon oil and other essential oils, the research offers a promising strategy for improving the storage conditions of wheat and potentially other grains. This could have far-reaching implications for food safety and public health, particularly in regions prone to mycotoxin contamination. In summary, the use of essential oils, particularly cinnamon oil, presents a viable method for reducing aflatoxin contamination in stored wheat grains. This study not only supports existing research on the importance of controlling mycotoxin levels but also provides a new avenue for ensuring the safety and quality of this critical food resource.



Main Study

1) Potential fungicidal and antiaflatoxigenic effects of cinnamon essential oils on Aspergillus flavus inhabiting the stored wheat grains.

Published 13th May, 2024

Related Studies

2) Mycotoxin contamination of foods in Southern Africa: A 10-year review (2007-2016).

3) Specific detection and quantification of Aspergillus flavus and Aspergillus parasiticus in wheat flour by SYBR® Green quantitative PCR.

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