• Sílvia Moreira

COST Action EUROCAROTEN publishes most cited paper in Progress in Lipid Research

COST Action EUROCAROTEN publishes most cited paper in Progress in Lipid Research, the top-ranked journal in the field of Nutrition and Dietetics.

Carotenoids are very interesting compounds that play key roles in nature. For many years, the interest in carotenoids as food constituents resided in the colour they impart and the fact that some of them are precursors of vitamin A, being accepted as health promoters.

Carotenoids are essential compounds for the survival of plants, also presenting several benefits for human health (who cannot produce them but can incorporate them through their diet). Carotenoids are pigments, or natural-coloured compounds, produced by all photosynthetic microorganisms, such as bacteria, fungi, and a few insects.

The main source of carotenoids is orange, yellow, and red food plants, such as carrots, tomatoes, oranges, and another citrus; but interestingly, carotenoids are mainly found in plant leaves and all green vegetables (being masked by the much higher concentration of chlorophylls), in concentrations in a range of milligrams per kilogram, being essential for photosynthesis. Also, foods of animal origin, such as milk and other dairy foods, egg yolk, fresh fish skin, and even colostrum, have carotenoids in their constitution.

For being such an interesting ingredient, carotenoids are currently found in the form of supplements and capsules, being already studied its effect on the decrease of the risk of developing cancers and other diseases (skin, bone, and eye conditions). The carotenoids ingested through the diet or supplements may be converted into Vitamin A, essential for humans, in combat to Vitamin a deficiency.

Although all the benefits attributed to carotenoids, only about 10-20 (from a universe of almost 800) carotenoids are being studied in-depth (not to mention the though-to-be thousands of derivatives). The goal of EUROCAROTEN action (“European network to advance carotenoid research and applications in agro-food and health”) is to enhance the competitiveness of the European agro-food industry and promote health by coordinating research on carotenoids.

EUROCAROTEN has produced the most cited article published since 2018 in Progress in Lipid Research, the top-ranked journal in the Nutrition and Dietetic field, being already received almost 200 citations, proving the general interest in carotenoid research. The review article discusses the biosynthesis of carotenoids in several organisms, their importance in the agro-food industry and health, as also explores what researchers need to focus on next steps.

Professor Antonio J. Meléndez Martínez, COST Action Chair, comments on this achievement for the fact that carotenoids are "extraordinary compounds that serve to illustrate the magic and wisdom of Nature, which has learned to harness this ancient compound for many different purposes, including making our diets healthier and more appealing."