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Kevin A. Lombard, Emmanuel Geoffriau, and Ellen Peffley

Direct spectrophotometric determination of quercetin content in onions (Allium cepa L.) was investigated as a possible alternative to high-performance liquid chromatography (HPLC) analysis. Quercetin content in five onion varieties was monitored at 362 nm and quantified using simple spectrophotometric and HPLC methods. HPLC revealed that 3,4'-Qdg and 4'-Qmg comprised up to 93% of total flavonol content detected in the studied varieties. These major quercetin conjugates combined (3,4'-Qdg + 4'-Qmg) and total flavonol conjugates quantified by HPLC correlated closely with spectrophotometer values. Correlation coefficients were 0.96 (P < 0.0001) for 3,4'-Qdg + 4'-Qmg and 0.97 (P < 0.0001) for total flavonol conjugates in onion. Simple spectrophotometric procedure proved to be a valid, efficient, and cost-effective method for the quantification of total quercetin in onion. Chemical names used: quercetin-3,4'-O-diglucoside (3,4'-Qdg); quercetin-4'-O-glucoside (4'-Qmg).

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Kevin A. Lombard, Emmanuel Geoffriau, and Ellen B. Peffley

Because of potential benefits on human health, the content of quercetin, the major flavonol found in onion (Allium cepa), could become a selection trait in breeding programs. Total flavonol concentration in onion was examined by spectrophotometric analysis at 374 nm in three long-day hybrid cultivars grown at three locations (Parma, Idaho; Grand Rapids, Mich; Elba, N.Y.), and in three shortday hybrid cultivars grown at one location in Georgia in three different fields. Mean total flavonol concentrations for long-day hybrids ranged from 176 to 232 mg·kg-1 (ppm) fresh weight and 110 to 173 mg·kg-1 fresh weight among short-day cultivars. No significant effect of location (state or field) was detected (P > 0.05). A significant (P > 0.05) cultivar by field interaction was detected in the short-day experiment, with the hybrid `Sweet Vidalia' showing significant differences among fields. Overall, our results suggest that quercetin content in onion, as expressed by the total flavonol content, does not vary depending on the growing origin, and therefore could be evaluated effectively in breeding or commercial material.

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Kevin A. Lombard, Ellen Peffley, Leslie Thompson, Emmanuel Geoffriau, and Jay Morris

The flavonol quercetin has been reported as having many health benefits, including a reduction in the risk of developing cardiovascular disease, stroke, and some types of cancer. The overall content of quercetin in onion was examined in four yellow varieties (`Rio Rita', `RNX 10968', `Predator', and `Tamara') and one red variety purchased at a local grocery store. Each bulb was quartered, with one quarter saved as a control and the other three quarters subjected to three cooking treatments that simulated common domestic processing methods of preparing onion. The treatments included sautéing in sunflower oil for 5 minutes at 93 °C, baking for 15 min. at 176 °C, and boiling for 5 minutes in distilled water. Samples were frozen in liquid nitrogen, ground to a fine powder, blended with 80% EtOH, and filtered for quercetin extraction. The filtrate was then analyzed with a spectrophotometer (uv 374 nm). Quercetin concentrations were obtained in mg quercetin/kg fresh weight of tissue by regressing spectrophotometer readings onto a standard curve. Significant differences between varieties were found when examining fresh samples alone with the red variety containing the highest content of quercetin. Results of cooking showed that sautéing produced an overall 27% gain in quercetin concentration (significantly higher than the fresh control), baking produced an overall 4% gain in concentration (insignificant from the fresh control), while boiling produced an overall 18% loss in quercetin concentration (significantly lower than the fresh control).