HPLC-UV/Vis-APCI-MS/MS Determination of Major Carotenoids and Their Bioaccessibility from "Delica" (Cucurbita maxima) and "Violina" (Cucurbita moschata) Pumpkins as Food Traceability Markers
Carotenoids are a widespread group of fat-soluble pigments, and their major nutritional importance comes from their pro-vitamin A activity and their antioxidant capacity. In this study, two different pumpkin cultivars (Cucurbita maxima, also named 'Delica' and Cucurbita moschata, also known as 'Violina') from the southern Po Delta area were investigated in terms of carotenoid content and the influence of food processing on compositional changes and carotenoid bioaccessibility. Quali- and
... ative determination of carotenoids in sample extracts were performed on a C30 column by means of an online coupled HPLC-UV/Vis-APCI-MS/MS technique. The identification of separated compounds was tentatively achieved by merging (i) chromatographic data, (ii) UV-Vis spectra, and (iii) MS/MS fragmentation spectra. The chromatographic profiles for the two cultivars showed qualitative differences. Two major carotenoids were considered for quantification purposes and further investigations: lutein and β -carotene. Quantification of target carotenoids was performed with external calibration through analytical standards. The concentration of lutein and β -carotene was higher in C. maxima than in the other variety, C. moschata. Carotenoids are susceptible to degradation (isomerization and oxidation) during food processing (i.e., cooking), and the concentration of lutein and β -carotene were monitored in oven-cooked and steam-cooked pumpkins. The steam-cooking process was superior in terms of limiting carotenoid loss. A complete functional profile of pumpkins as a source of carotenoids was gained with the evaluation of their in vitro bioaccessibility and their bioavailability after intake during human digestion. Bioaccessibility of lutein and β -carotene were estimated by an in vitro static digestion model that involved salivary, gastric, and duodenal phases. Bioaccessibility values progressively increased from the salivary to the duodenal phase for both pumpkin varieties and cooking methods. Bioaccessibility of lutein was always lower than β -carotene for both cultivars and for both cooking methods. Bioaccessibility values for lutein and β -carotene changed from 1.93% to 2.34% vs. 4.94% and 8.83% in the salivary phase, from 2.7% to 4.63% vs. 7.83% and 15.60% in the gastric phase, and from 10.04% to 13.42% vs. 25.81% and 35.32% in the duodenal phase. For both target compounds, bioaccessibility in the duodenal phase was more than twice the gastric values, and it underlined that the type of cooking did not influence release from the initial matrix.