Natural Origin Lycopene and Its “Green” Downstream Processing
Lycopene is an abundant natural carotenoid pigment with several biological functions (well-known for its antioxidant properties) which is under intensive investigation in recent years. Lycopene chemistry, its natural distribution, bioavailability, biological significance, and toxicological effects are briefly outlined in the first part of this review. The second, major part, deals with various modern downstream processing techniques, which are assessed in order to identify promising approaches for the recovery of lycopene and of similar lipophilic compounds. Natural lycopene is synthesized in plants and by microorganisms, with main representatives of these two categories (for industrial production) tomato and its by-products and the fungus Blakeslea trispora, respectively. Currently, there is a great deal of effort to develop efficient downstream processing for large scale production of natural-origin lycopene, with trends strongly indicating the necessity for “green” and mild extraction conditions. In this review, emphasis is placed on final product safety and ecofriendly processing, which are expected to totally dominate in the field of natural-origin lycopene extraction and purification.