The effect of food preparation on the bioavailability of carotenoids from carrots using intrinsic labelling

Ghavami, Abdollah, Coward, W. Andy and Bluck, Les J. C. (2012) The effect of food preparation on the bioavailability of carotenoids from carrots using intrinsic labelling. British Journal of Nutrition, 107 (9). pp. 1350-1366. ISSN 0007-1145


A strategy to reduce the incidence of vitamin A deficiency is to improve precursor bioavailability from meals. Since vitamin A precursors are fat-soluble, we noted that carotenoids are more easily absorbed from food if prepared in such a way that the food matrix containing provitamin A (β-carotene) is sufficiently fat rich. To quantify this effect, we have developed a stable isotope methodology. By regular watering with 2H-labelled water, we were able to produce several kg of intrinsically labelled carrots, with carotenoids labelled to 0·63 % excess 2H. These were divided into 100 g portions and fed to a small group of healthy subjects both raw and stir-fried. To normalise for inter-individual variation in absorption and subsequent metabolism, small quantities of extrinsically 13C-labelled β-carotene and 2H-labelled retinol acetate were also incorporated into the meal. After ingestion of the carrots, blood lipids were monitored for a period of 3 d in order to determine the kinetics of β-carotene and retinol. From kinetic data, it was estimated that the bioavailability of carrot-derived β-carotene compared with pure β-carotene was about 11 % for raw carrots, but 75 % when the carrots were stir-fried. Conversely, there was a slight reduction in the bioconversion to retinol from β-carotene when the latter was derived from the stir-fried meal compared with that from raw carrots. When these two factors are combined, the yield of retinol from the carotene in carrots was found to be enhanced by a factor of 6·5 by stir-frying.

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