An investigation on carotene, alpha-tocopherol and squalene contents of olives from six different cultivars and 15 virgin olive oils produced in Molise region in 1995 was carried out. Olives were harvested at different stages of ripeness and oil was extracted in industrial plants by pressure or centrifugation systems. The concentration of carotenes, alpha-tocopherol and squalene have been correlated, both in fruit and oil samples, with the olive ripeness index. In particular a significant linear correlation (R-2 = 0.95) has been found between olive ripeness index and olive carotene content. In order to evaluate the stability of the extracted oil, a 6 month storage test at room temperature in the dark has been carried out. In addition to the nutritional relevance of beta-carotene and alpha-tocopherol, the compounds studied are also characterised by antioxidant activities. Within the same cultivar, tocopherol and squalene stability was inversely related to the degree of ripeness. In general, storage losses ranged, probably due to different antioxidant mechanisms, from 0 to 10% for carotene, from 14 to 32% for tocopherol and from 26 to 47% for squalene. (C) 1998 SCI.
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