Main content area

Biomarkers of carotenoid bioavailability

Granado-Lorencio, F., Blanco-Navarro, I., Pérez-Sacristán, B., Hernández-Álvarez, E.
Food research international 2017 v.99 pp. 902-916
bioactive properties, bioavailability, biomarkers, blood serum, carotenes, chronic exposure, cornea, cumulative exposure, esters, humans, lutein, metabolites, retinal diseases, risk factors, tissues
The use of biomarkers constitutes an essential tool to assess the bioavailability of carotenoids in humans. The present article aims to review several methodological, host-related and modulating factors relevant on assessing and interpreting carotenoid bioavailability. Markers for carotenoid bioavailability can be broadly divided into direct, biochemical or “analytical” markers and indirect, physiological or “functional” indicators. Analytical markers usually refer to biochemical indicators of intake and/or status (short and long term exposure) while functional measures may be interpreted in terms of cumulative exposure, biological effect (bioactivity) or modification of risk factors. Both types of markers display advantages and limitations but, in general, a relationship exists among the type of marker, the biological specimen needed and the time required for a change. Humans may absorb a wide range of carotenes and xanthophylls and many of them may be found in serum and tissues. However, under physiological conditions, the several classes of dietary carotenoids may behave unequally leading to a different systemic profile and, moreover, they can be selectively accumulated at target tissues. In addition, some carotenoids may be chemically and enzymatically modified generating different oxidative metabolites and apocarotenoids. Quantitatively, the biological response upon carotenoid intervention (assessed by analytical and functional markers) is highly variable but the use of large doses and long-term protocols may lead to saturation effects and the loss of linearity in the response. Also, despite carotenoid exposition is considered to be safe, markers of overexposure include clinical signs (i.e. carotenodermia, corneal rings and retinopathy) and biochemical indicators (hypercarotenemia, xanthophyll esters). Overall, both host-related and methodological factors may influence analytical and functional markers to assess carotenoid bioavailability although the different subclasses of carotenoids may not be equally affected.