Carotenoids are a class of yellow-orange-red pigments distributed in various fruits, spices, herbs and especially in vegetables. These pigments are bioactive components essential to human health. Among the numerous classes of carotenoids, a smaller number is known for having provitamin A activity. This vitamin is essential to the organism in the proper functioning of the vision and the immune system. On the other hand, the deficiency in this vitamin is related to a great number of diseases, which can in severe cases, lead to death. This makes essential the proper supplying of this vitamin to human nutrition. There are two sources from which vitamin A can be derived: (a) vitamin A preformed with retinol esters from animal food sources and (b) from carotenoid found in plant foods. Thus, food fortification is presented as an alternative to reduce vitamin A deficiency. Currently, plant breeding has contributed to the development and introduction of biofortified products. Improved varieties obtained from biofortification have a higher content of nutrients and vitamins, leading to the improvement of human diet. The genetic breeding of vegetables aiming nutritional biofortification is a promising strategy for the increasing of carotenoid concentration in agricultural products and prevention of vitamin A deficiency. Besides the crops that have commonly been used in the biofortification programs, a series of horticulture crops are also promising for insertion in the programs of biofortification in pro vitamin A. Thus, the objective of this review is addressing the problems resulting from vitamin A deficiency and the adoption potential of horticulture species by genetic breeding programs aiming the biofortification in carotenoids.
Key words: Horticulture, hypovitaminosis A, pro vitamin A.
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