Saponins are made of a steroid (or triterpene) group attached to a sugar moiety. These surface-active compounds are found in legumes and oilseeds such as soybean. Saponins are able to lyse erythocytes due to their interaction with cholesterol in the membranes, thus exerting hemolytic properties. These compounds have a bitter taste and are toxic at high concentrations. Their surface activity is of interest due to their beneficial biological effects. The hypocholesterolemic effect of saponins is quite strong, especially when fed in the presence of cholesterol. Saponins also have anti-carcinogenic properties and contribute to the enhancement of the immune system (Rao and Koratkar, 1997).
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