Banana is a staple crop in many regions where vitamin A deficiency is prevalent, making it a target for provitamin A biofortification. However, matrix effects may limit provitamin A bioavailability from bananas. The retinol bioefficacies of unripe and ripe bananas (study 1A), unripe high-provitamin A bananas (study 1B), and raw and cooked bananas (study 2) were determined in retinol-depleted Mongolian gerbils (n = 97/study) using positive and negative controls. After feeding a retinol-deficient diet for 6 and 4 wk in studies 1 and 2, respectively, customized diets containing 60, 30, or 15% banana were fed for 17 and 13 d, respectively. In study 1A, the hepatic retinol of the 60% ripe Cavendish group (0.52 ± 0.13 μmol retinol/liver) differed from baseline (0.65 ± 0.15 μmol retinol/liver) and was higher than the negative control group (0.39 ± 0.16 μmol retinol/liver; P < 0.0065). In study 1B, no groups differed from baseline (0.65 ± 0.15 μmol retinol/liver; P = 0.20). In study 2, the 60% raw Butobe group (0.68 ± 0.17 μmol retinol/liver) differed from the 60% cooked Butobe group (0.87 ± 0.24 μmol retinol/liver); neither group differed from baseline (0.80 ± 0.27 μmol retinol/liver; P < 0.0001). Total liver retinol was higher in the groups fed cooked bananas than in those fed raw (P = 0.0027). Body weights did not differ even though gerbils ate more green, ripe, and raw bananas than cooked, suggesting a greater indigestible component. In conclusion, thermal processing, but not ripening, improves the retinol bioefficacy of bananas. Food matrix modification affects carotenoid bioavailability from provitamin A biofortification targets
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