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Plant carotenoids are the most important source of vitamin A in the human diet

November 28, 2015

Mark W. Farnham of the U.S. Department of Agriculture, Agricultural Research Service, Charleston, South Carolina, and Dean A. Kopsell from the Plant Sciences Department, University of Tennessee, Knoxville, designed a research study aimed at finding out more about the carotenoid content of field-grown broccoli and determining the effects of genetics and the environment on carotenoid levels. The duo's research confirmed that broccoli heads contain abundant levels of lutein, an antioxidant commonly thought to provide nutritional support to eyes and skin. Other carotenoids like beta-carotene, violaxanthin, neoxanthin, and antheraxanthin were also found in broccoli heads, but lutein was clearly the most significant, accounting for about half of all carotenoids measured.

The researchers also discovered that when it comes to breeding broccoli, lutein levels were linked to the plants' genetics; the environment in which the vegetables were grown had little effect on carotenoid production.

The full study, published in a recent issue of HortScience, includes recommendations for vegetable breeders interested in producing vegetables that feature higher lutein levels. "Ultimately," reported Farnham and Kopsell, "this research indicates that breeding cultivars with increased levels of this particular carotenoid may be feasible."

The complete study and abstract are available on the ASHS HortScience electronic journal web site: hortsci.ashspublications/cgi/content/abstract/44/5/1248

Source: American Society for Horticultural Science