Provitamin A carotenoids from an engineered high-carotenoid maize are bioavailable and zeaxanthin does not compromise β-carotene absorption in poultry
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High-carotenoid (HC) maize, a biofortified staple crop which accumulates β-carotene, β-cryptoxanthin, lutein and zeaxanthin, was used as a feed component in a chicken feeding trial to assess the bioavailability of provitamin A (PVA) carotenoids in the kernel matrix compared to the synthetic and natural color additives routinely used in the poultry industry. We found that the PVA carotenoids in HC maize were not metabolized in the same manner: β-carotene was preferentially converted into retinol in the intestine whereas β-cryptoxanthin accumulated in the liver. We also considered the effect of zeaxanthin on the absorption of PVA carotenoids because zeaxanthin is the major carotenoid component of HC maize. We found that chickens fed on diets with low levels of zeaxanthin accumulated higher levels of retinol in the liver, suggesting that zeaxanthin might interfere with the absorption of β-carotene, although this observation was not statistically significant. Our results show that HC maize provides bioavailable carotenoids, including PVA carotenoids, and is suitable for use as a feed component.
KeywordsChicken Bioavailability Metabolic engineering Pigments β-carotene
The authors would like to thank the University of Lleida for a Ph.D. fellowship awarded to J. Díaz-Gómez, IRTA-Mas de Bover (Reus, Spain) for diet formulation and manufacture, ITPSA (Barcelona, Spain) for providing the color additives, Ferran Roura for his involvement in the trial, and Antonio Michelena and Jaume Lloveras for the production of HC and M37W maize used in the preparation of the diets in experimental field trials.
This work was supported by La Caixa (Recercaixa project PC084082 VitaMaize: High quality and safe food through antioxidant fortified maize), the Spanish Ministry of Economy and Competitiveness (BIO2014-54426-P; BIO2014-54441-P, FEDER funds), the Catalan Government (2014 SGR 1296 Agricultural Biotechnology Research Group) and the Agrotecnio Center.
Compliance with ethical standards
Conflict of interest
The authors declare no competing financial interest.
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