Fatty acid composition and its relationship with physicochemical properties of pecan (Carya illinoensis) oil

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Abstract

The composition and physicochemical properties of pecan (Carya illinoensis) kernels and oils from different native trees of the central region of Mexico were investigated. The main compositional characteristic of the kernel was the high lipid content (70–79% w/w on dry basis) with elevated concentration of oleic acid (55–75% w/w). The results confirmed the relationship in the biosynthesis of linoleic and linolenic acids from oleic acid existing in oilseeds. Our results indicate that in pecans such relationship is a function of pecan tree age. The proportion of oleic, linoleic, and linolenic fatty acids determined the oxidative stability, viscosity, and melting/crystallization behavior of pecan oil. In general, these properties in pecan oils were similar or superior to extra-virgin olive oil and unrefined sesame oil. Although all native pecan oils studied showed a significant concentration of oleic acid, a particular group of native Mexican pecan trees produces an oil with a fatty acid composition with the nutritional appeal that consumers demand nowadays (i.e., very high oleic acid, 60–75%), with excellent natural oxidative stability (i.e., induction time for oxidation between 8.5 and 10.8 h), and substantially higher concentrations of α-, γ-, and δ-tocopherol than in pecan varieties previously reported in the literature.