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Open Access Research article

Development of a rapid, simple assay of plasma total carotenoids

Michael Donaldson

Author Affiliations

Hallelujah Acres, 1733 Cutler Way, Zillah, WA, 98953, USA

BMC Research Notes 2012, 5:521  doi:10.1186/1756-0500-5-521

Published: 24 September 2012

Abstract

Background

Plasma total carotenoids can be used as an indicator of risk of chronic disease. Laboratory analysis of individual carotenoids by high performance liquid chromatography (HPLC) is time consuming, expensive, and not amenable to use beyond a research laboratory. The aim of this research is to establish a rapid, simple, and inexpensive spectrophotometric assay of plasma total carotenoids that has a very strong correlation with HPLC carotenoid profile analysis.

Results

Plasma total carotenoids from 29 volunteers ranged in concentration from 1.2 to 7.4 μM, as analyzed by HPLC. A linear correlation was found between the absorbance at 448 nm of an alcohol / heptane extract of the plasma and plasma total carotenoids analyzed by HPLC, with a Pearson correlation coefficient of 0.989. The average coefficient of variation for the spectrophotometric assay was 6.5% for the plasma samples. The limit of detection was about 0.3 μM and was linear up to about 34 μM without dilution. Correlations between the integrals of the absorption spectra in the range of carotenoid absorption and total plasma carotenoid concentration gave similar results to the absorbance correlation. Spectrophotometric assay results also agreed with the calculated expected absorbance based on published extinction coefficients for the individual carotenoids, with a Pearson correlation coefficient of 0.988.

Conclusion

The spectrophotometric assay of total carotenoids strongly correlated with HPLC analysis of carotenoids of the same plasma samples and expected absorbance values based on extinction coefficients. This rapid, simple, inexpensive assay, when coupled with the carotenoid health index, may be useful for nutrition intervention studies, population cohort studies, and public health interventions.

Keywords:
Carotenoid; HPLC; Spectrophotometry; Assay method; Beta-carotene; Lycopene