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Distribution of carotenoids and vitamin A activity in aerial organs of selected underutilized Malaysian “ulam” or traditional vegetables (Averrhoa carambola, Manihot esculenta and Ipomoea batatas)

Jamilah Syafawati Yaacob (Institute of Biological Sciences, Faculty of Science, University of Malaya, Kuala Lumpur, Malaysia and Centre for Research in Biotechnology for Agriculture (CEBAR), University of Malaya, Kuala Lumpur, Malaysia)
Nur Asniyati Abdul Halim (Institute of Biological Sciences, Faculty of Science, University of Malaya, Kuala Lumpur, Malaysia)
Sharmilla Ashokhan (Institute of Biological Sciences, Faculty of Science, University of Malaya, Kuala Lumpur, Malaysia)
Hanisah Ali (Institute of Biological Sciences, Faculty of Science, University of Malaya, Kuala Lumpur, Malaysia)
Rashidi Othman (Department of Landscape Architecture, Kulliyyah of Architecture and Environment Design, International Islamic University, Kuala Lumpur, Malaysia)

Pigment & Resin Technology

ISSN: 0369-9420

Article publication date: 8 November 2018

Issue publication date: 27 February 2019

175

Abstract

Purpose

The purpose of this study is to evaluate the pattern of carotenoids distribution in three underutilized Malaysian ‘ulam’ or traditional vegetables in Malaysia (Averrhoa carambola, Manihot esculenta and Ipomoea batatas) and their valuable pro-vitamin A activities. These assessments will yield valuable knowledge and insight into the importance of these underutilized traditional vegetables and highlight their potential for applications in medicinal and functional colorant industries.

Design/methodology/approach

In this study, the authors have evaluated the distribution of carotenoid compounds in aerial organs of three underutilized traditional vegetables (Averrhoa carambola, Manihot esculenta and Ipomoea batatas). The content of the individual carotenoids were quantified using high-performance liquid chromatography (HPLC) and the organ with the highest accumulation of these compounds were identified. Their valuable pro-vitamin A activities were also reported to indicate their medicinal potential which can further be exploited as pharmacologically active natural colorants and in other applications.

Findings

In total, three major chromatographic peaks corresponding to lutein, violaxanthin and β-carotene were observed through HPLC. Among the compounds detected, lutein and β-carotene were the most abundant carotenoids found in both shoots and petioles of all three species. Violaxanthin was only detected in I. batatas shoots. Overall, carotenoid content was observed to be higher in the shoots than in the petioles, where I. batatas contained the highest amount of total carotenoid, followed by M. esculenta and A. carambola. The opposite trend was observed in the petioles, where A. carambola petioles had the highest carotenoid content, while I. batatas contained the least.

Research limitations/implications

The distribution and abundance of these individual carotenoids suggested that the petioles contained the highest amount of carotenoid, contributing to its high pro-vitamin A activity, and could be potentially useful for medicinal application, as it can act as storage site that is not as prone to natural drying or degradation during harvest and sample storage. Future research work should include improvements in the extraction and purification procedures as well as robust identification methods which may lead to better detection and identification of other compounds that could attribute to its bioactivity, to complement the findings of the current study.

Practical implications

This analysis provides valuable information on the importance of underutilized traditional vegetables as important biofactories for sustainable production of valuable pigments (such as carotenoids) with medicinal benefits and can further be exploited in various industries, such as in formulation of functional natural colorants. This study also highlights the importance of petiole as a storage site of pharmacologically active compounds that is not as prone to natural drying or degradation during harvest and sample storage.

Originality/value

To date, there is no previous report found on comparative analysis of carotenoid content and quantification of individual carotenoid concentration in the edible aerial parts of Averrhoa carambola, Manihot esculenta and Ipomoea batatas, although they have been traditionally consumed as “ulam” in Malaysia. Therefore, the results reported in this study provide new insights on carotenoid accumulation in the selected ‘ulam’ species.

Keywords

Acknowledgements

Conflict of Interest: The authors declare that they have no competing interests.

The authors thank the University of Malaya, Malaysia for experimental facilities and financial support (Grant No. BK015-2013) provided.

Citation

Yaacob, J.S., Abdul Halim, N.A., Ashokhan, S., Ali, H. and Othman, R. (2019), "Distribution of carotenoids and vitamin A activity in aerial organs of selected underutilized Malaysian “ulam” or traditional vegetables (Averrhoa carambola, Manihot esculenta and Ipomoea batatas)", Pigment & Resin Technology, Vol. 48 No. 2, pp. 148-155. https://doi.org/10.1108/PRT-02-2018-0019

Publisher

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Emerald Publishing Limited

Copyright © 2018, Emerald Publishing Limited

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