Carotenoid content of pandanus fruit cultivars and other foods of the Republic of Kiribati

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Abstract

Background

Kiribati, a remote atoll island country of the Pacific, has serious problems of vitamin A deficiency (VAD). Thus, it is important to identify locally grown acceptable foods that might be promoted to alleviate this problem. Pandanus fruit (Pandanus tectorius) is a well-liked indigenous Kiribati food with many cultivars that have orange/yellow flesh, indicative of carotenoid content. Few have been previously analysed.

Aim

This study was conducted to identify cultivars of pandanus and other foods that could be promoted to alleviate VAD in Kiribati.

Method

Ethnography was used to select foods and assess acceptability factors. Pandanus and other foods were analysed for β- and α-carotene, β-cryptoxanthin, lutein, zeaxanthin, lycopene and total carotenoids using high-performance liquid chromatography.

Results

Of the nine pandanus cultivars investigated there was a great range of provitamin A carotenoid levels (from 62 to 19 086 μg β-carotene/100 g), generally with higher levels in those more deeply coloured. Seven pandanus cultivars, one giant swamp taro (Cyrtosperma chamissonis) cultivar and native fig (Ficus tinctoria) had significant provitamin A carotenoid content, meeting all or half of estimated daily vitamin A requirements within normal consumption patterns. Analyses in different laboratories confirmed high carotenoid levels in pandanus but showed that there are still questions as to how high the levels might be, owing to variation arising from different handling/preparation/analytical techniques.

Conclusions

These carotenoid-rich acceptable foods should be promoted for alleviating VAD in Kiribati and possibly other Pacific contexts where these foods are important. Further research in the Pacific is needed to identify additional indigenous foods with potential health benefits.

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