Carotenoids and their derivatives are versatile isoprenoids involved in many varied actions, hence their importance in the agri-food industry, nutrition, health and other fields. All carotenoids are derived from the colorless carotenes phytoene and phytofluene, which are oddities among carotenoids due to their distinct chemical structure. They occur together with lycopene in tomato and other lycopene-containing foods. Furthermore, they are also present in frequently consumed products like oranges and carrots, among others. The intake of phytoene plus phytofluene has been shown to be higher than that of lycopene and other carotenoids in Luxembourg. This is likely to be common in other countries. However, they are not included in food carotenoid databases, hence they have not been linked to health benefits in epidemiological studies. Interestingly, there are evidences in vitro, animal models and humans indicating that they may provide health benefits. In this sense, the study of these colorless carotenes in the context of food science, nutrition and health should be further encouraged. In this work, we review much of the existing knowledge concerning their chemical characteristics, physico-chemical properties, analysis, distribution in foods, bioavailability and likely biological activities.
Keywords: Colorless carotenoids; Food; Health; Nutrition; Phytoene; Phytofluene.
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