Factors affecting the fate of beta-carotene in the human gastrointestinal tract: A narrative review.
Carotenoids and their metabolites play crucial roles in human health such as in immunity, cell differentiation, embryonic development, maintenance of plasma membrane integrity, and gastrointestinal functions, in addition to counteracting night blindness and other eye-related diseases. However, carotenoid bioavailability is highly variable and often low. The bioavailability of beta-carotene, among the most frequently consumed carotenoid from the diet, is determined by food matrix related factors such as carotenoid dose, its location in food the matrix, the physical state in food, the presence of other food compounds in the matrix such as dietary fiber, dietary lipids, other micronutrients present such as minerals, and food processing, influencing also the size of food particles, and the presence of absorption inhibitors (fat replacers and anti-obesity drugs) or enhancers (nano-/micro-formulations). However, also host-related factors such as physiochemical interactions by gastrointestinal secretions (enzyme and salts) and other host-related factors such as surgery, age, disease, obesity, and genetic variations have shown to play a role. This review contributes to the knowledge regarding factors affecting the bioavailability of beta-carotene (food and host-relegated), as well as highlights in vitro models employed to evaluate beta-carotene bioavailability aspects.