Sea buckthorn oil as a valuable source of bioaccessible xanthophylls.
Sea buckthorn oil, derived from the fruits of the shrub, also termed seaberry or sandthorn, is without doubt a strikingly rich source of carotenoids, in particular zeaxanthin and beta-carotene. In the present study, sea buckthorn oil and an oil-in-water emulsion were subjected to a simulated gastro-intestinal in vitro digestion, with the main focus on xanthophyll bioaccessibility. Zeaxanthin mono- and di-esters were the predominant carotenoids in sea buckthorn oil, with zeaxanthin dipalmitate as the major compound (38.0%). A typical fatty acid profile was found, with palmitic (49.4%), palmitoleic (28.0%), and oleic (11.7%) acids as the dominant fatty acids. Taking into account the high amount of carotenoid esters present in sea buckthorn oil, the use of cholesterol esterase was included in the in vitro digestion protocol. Total carotenoid bioaccessibility was higher for the oil-in-water emulsion (22.5%) compared to sea buckthorn oil (18.0%) and even higher upon the addition of cholesterol esterase (28.0% and 21.2%, respectively). In the case of sea buckthorn oil, of all the free carotenoids, zeaxanthin had the highest bioaccessibility (61.5%), followed by lutein (48.9%), making sea buckthorn oil a potential attractive source of bioaccessible xanthophylls.