INTRODUCTION: Bioavailability is a critical feature in the assessment of the role of micronutrients in human health. Poorly bioavailable micronutrients like carotenoids may reach significant concentrations in the gastrointestinal tract where they may exert biological actions.
PURPOSE: We evaluated a simple collection protocol to determine vitamin A, E and carotenoids in microsamples of human faeces as a non-invasive approach for nutritional studies.
METHODS: Microsamples of human faeces were collected using a commercially available device, extracted and analysed on two LC systems. Suitability of the protocol was assessed by evaluating several factors including the effect of simulated colonic conditions and two nutritional scenarios with different dietary components, chemical forms, nutritional goals and target groups.
RESULTS: The protocol was reproducible and representative of a faeces sample. The major dietary and serum carotenoids, and several "unidentified" compounds (possibly metabolites) could be detected, and cis-/trans-β-carotene profile reflected dietary intervention. In faeces of neonates, free retinol, retinyl and α-tocopheryl acetate (from infant formula), long-chain fatty acid retinyl esters (from human milk), free γ-tocopherol and α-tocopherol could be detected.
CONCLUSION: Our results show that the analysis of vitamin A, E and carotenoids in microsamples of human faeces is a suitable, non-invasive approach that may provide relevant information regarding responsiveness, nutrient stability and metabolism and may help assess adequacy of chemical forms and delivery systems reaching the colon.
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