Spanish researchers have obtained oranges that are richer in antioxidants

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They are oranges with a higher ß-carotene content in which the antioxidant capacity in the juice is increased by 20%.
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Investigadores españoles obtienen naranjas más ricas en antioxidantes

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A group of Spanish scientists has managed to obtain oranges with higher ß-carotene content in the pulp and a greater antioxidant capacity in the juice  —up to 20% more— compared to traditional varieties. This work has been done on plants whose flowering period has been shortened.

The study has been conducted by scientists, of the Valencia Institute for Agrarian Research, of the Institute of Agro-chemistry and Food Technology of the Higher Council for Scientific Research (CSIC) and the technology company Biopolis, and the results have been published in the Plant Biotechnology Journal, the CSIC has reported.

What researchers have specifically obtained, are oranges with more ß-carotene content in which the juice antioxidant capacity is increased by 20% with regards to traditional oranges. Furthermore, the oranges obtained in this project have a deep yellow colour and up to 36 times more in the flesh, a precursor of vitamin A, as confirmed in the press statement released by the CSIC.

To achieve this, experts have transformed sweet orange plants by manipulating the gene related to the conversion of ß-carotene into xanthophyll, which is responsible for the orange colour in oranges. This technique has been performed on plants in which flowering was advanced (just four months, less than half the usual time, the CSIC indicated in its press statement).

The result has been the production of fruit in less time, a fruit that accumulates a higher content of ß-carotene, with juices that have increased their antioxidant capacity.

The CSIC has recalled that oranges contain a large quantity of antioxidants with healthy properties, such as carotenoids, vitamin C and other metabolites, such as flavonoids and polyphenols.

Many of these plant molecules have been associated to an antioxidant protection and the prevention of degenerative diseases.

Carotenoids are the principal pigments responsible for the colour of the skin and pulp in citrus fruits and contribute greatly to the antioxidant and nutritional value of these crops.

Although citrus are a rich, complex, source of carotenoids, most orange varieties accumulate mainly xanthophyll, that account for over 90% of the total amount of carotenoids. By contrast, the levels of other nutritionally important carotenoids like beta-carotene are considered “deficient” in these varieties, the CSIC reported.