Community Research and Development Information Service - CORDIS

Increased fruit and vegetable consumption in the European Union: potential health benefits

Vegetables and fruits contain a range of potentially protective compounds (carotenoids, flavonoids, phenols, sulphur compounds and so on) that may have synergistic or complementary effects on human health. Carotenoids are thought to be inversely related to the development of chronic and degenerative diseases and are considered as preventive agents.
A Carotenoid Food Database which includes fruits and vegetables frequently consumed within the European Union is being developed. Qualitative and quantitative data is provided on the carotenoid composition in fruits and vegetables under different thermal processing conditions. The effect of boiling (at ready-to-eat point) and freezing/thawing (-20 C, 1 month/4 C, 16 h) is being evaluated for several fruits and vegetables in order to obtain information about the impact on carotenoid content. The data can then be applied to industrial processes (eg bleaching, freezing) used for commercial products.

Freezing/thawing does not affect the carotenoid content nor its isomeric distribution in most vegetables and fruits analysed to date, whereas boiling provokes an increase in the carotenoids quantified.

In addition to the impact on the food industry, a more accurate evaluation of the classical nutritional value (provitamin A) and other actions (natural antioxidants) of carotenoids is being provided. Nutritionists, epidemiologists and public health policymakers can use the data to improve nutritional recommendations for different consumers and assess the impact of newly developed products and processing methods on the nutritional value of foods and public health.

Studies are being carried out on carotenoid absorption, serum clearance and factors influencing serum levels in control subjects.

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