The stability of lycopene in an olive oil/tomato emulsion during thermal processing (80-140 °C) was studied. Initially, the degradation of total lycopene (all-E plus Z-forms) occurred quickly at temperatures above 100 °C. However, a nonzero plateau value, depending on the processing temperature, was attained after longer treatment times. Besides degradation, the isomerization of total-Z-lycopene as well as the individual isomerization of all-E-, 5-Z-, 9-Z-, and 13-Z-lycopene was studied in detail. After prolonged heating, the isomer conversion reached a temperature-dependent equilibrium state. The degradation of total lycopene and the isomerization could be described by a fractional conversion model. The temperature dependency of the corresponding reaction rate constants was quantified by the Arrhenius equation. The activation energy of degradation was estimated to be 28 kJ/mol, and the activation energy of overall (all-E and total-Z) isomerization was estimated to be 52 kJ/mol.
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