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Betalaines are substances belonging to the class of natural red and yellow pigments.
Betalaines have the particularity of being found exclusively in the plants of the order of the Caryophyllales, where they replace the anthocyanins, and are often present in the petals of the flowers, but also in the fruits and plant parts.
In nature there are two categories of betalaine:
– Betacianine, which vary in color from reddish to violet;
– Betaxanthines, with a color varying from yellow to orange.
Some examples of colors due to betalaine are those of the red color of beetroot and prickly pear.
The betalaines extracted from the beet are made up of about 90% of betacianine; these are used by the food industry as a coloring agent (E162).
The peculiarity of betalaine is that although they are similar in color to anthocyanins (other natural pigments), they differ from these in that they are hardly affected by the pH in the food range and are fairly stable in the conditions encountered in the processes of food processing.
For this reason betalaine are increasingly used as dyes for dairy products and desserts.
The betalaines are instead heat unstable at neutral pH, so they cannot be used in cakes and bakery products, since if heated in an aerobic environment, they degrade to form brown compounds.

Another commercial interest linked to betalaine is that they have been identified as substances that can exert positive effects on human health, as they have shown significant antioxidant and anti-inflammatory activity.
These studies started with the antioxidant activity of these pigments extracted from red beetroot and subsequently, betalaine extracted from other sources such as prickly pear or from plants of the Amarantaceae family were also studied.
These studies have shown that the betalaine contained in the prickly pear are absorbed in the human intestine and that subsequently in the bloodstream they are found incorporated in the lipoproteins (LDL) and in the cell membranes of the red blood cells.
Lipoproteins and red blood cells enriched in betalaine are, respectively, more resistant to oxidation and less sensitive to hemolysis.
This result leads to consider that these pigments are bioavailable and effective in protecting our body from the attack of free radicals.
Other studies have been conducted on animals: in this case it has been revealed that the intake of betalaine is effective in protecting against the development of skin and liver tumors. In addition, it has been shown that betalaine are able to stimulate the activity of liver enzymes involved in the detoxification of potentially toxic substances for the body.

Warning: The information shown is not medical advice and may not be accurate. The contents are for illustrative purposes only and do not replace medical advice.

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