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Characterization of urucum seed wax from the molecular distillation process using mass spectrometry

Grant number: 20/02096-9
Support Opportunities:Scholarships in Brazil - Post-Doctoral
Effective date (Start): May 01, 2020
Effective date (End): November 30, 2023
Field of knowledge:Agronomical Sciences - Food Science and Technology - Food Science
Principal Investigator:Roseli Aparecida Ferrari
Grantee:Vanilda Aparecida Soares de Arruda Peixoto
Host Institution: Instituto de Tecnologia de Alimentos (ITAL). Agência Paulista de Tecnologia dos Agronegócios (APTA). Secretaria de Agricultura e Abastecimento (São Paulo - Estado). Campinas , SP, Brazil
Associated research grant:17/50349-0 - Plan of institutional development in research of the Institute of Food Technology - ITAL (PDIp), AP.PDIP
Associated scholarship(s):22/01522-0 - Characterization of annatto seed wax from the molecular distillation process using mass spectrometry, BE.EP.PD


Since ancient times, indigenous people have used annatto seeds (Bixa orellana L.) to dye their hunting, fishing, clothing, war ornaments and their own bodies. The first reference to annatto was found in the letter in which Pero Vaz de Caminha announces the discovery of Brazil. In addition to the uses that the indigenous people maintained, the use of annatto pigments in domestic cooking has consolidated over time and its industrialization. Currently, annatto seed dyes are used in the most diverse industrial segments, such as food, pharmaceuticals and cosmetics. Brazil is the largest producer of annatto seeds and dyes, with an estimated production of 16 thousand tons of grains in 2018. This makes the seeds and dyes market an active trade that generates jobs and income, mainly for the small producer, which is the basis of the production of these grains. These seeds have been gaining notoriety for containing other substances of importance for human health, such as tocotrienols and geranylgeraniol. Bioactive compounds may, in the near future, explain most of the pharmacological properties traditionally attributed to annatto as an anti-inflammatory, expectorant, febrifuge, healing agent and insect repellent, among others. These substances are present in an aryl that covers annatto seeds and that represents about 10% of the dry seed mass. The laboratories of the Food Technology Institute after the analysis of this aryl found the following physical-chemical composition: moisture content 3.5%, ash content 2.0%, Crude Protein content 2.5%, content of ether extract 30%, total carbohydrate content 32% and total carotenoid content expressed as 30% bixin. This composition indicates that at least 30% of the material that makes up the annatto seed aril, therefore, approximately 3% of the weight of the seeds is formed by lipids whose consistency refers to the composition of waxes. Recently, during the distillation for the separation and isolation of compounds from the classes of terpenes and tocotrienols of the unsaponifiable fraction of annatto seeds, we are faced with a high content of wax that represented a large part of the raw material used in the fractionation process. However, we did not find reports in the literature about the unsaponifiable fraction of annatto seeds, which is the main motivation of this research. This project proposes the determination of the wax content in annatto seeds and in the residue of the molecular distillation of the unsaponifiable material of these grains, and a comprehensive characterization of the bioactive compounds through liquid and gas chromatography coupled with high-resolution mass spectrometry. It is hoped that detailed knowledge of the composition of the different annatto seed fractions can guide applications for the use of this material. (AU)

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