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J Nutr. 1992 Jan;122(1):115-9.

Beta-carotene uptake and tissue distribution in ferrets (Mustela putorius furo).

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  • 1Department of Food Science, University of Illinois, Urbana 61801.


Ferrets accumulate beta-carotene in liver and adipose tissue after chronic feeding. This study was designed to further evaluate the time course of uptake and depletion of beta-carotene in ferret serum and tissues. Male ferrets (n = 15; 1000-1200 g) were given a single dose of beta-carotene (10 mg/kg body wt) with a meal. Animals were killed at various time points over an 11-d period. Blood and tissue samples were extracted and analyzed for beta-carotene by HPLC. Peak serum beta-carotene levels (0.68 +/- 0.18 mumol/L) were observed 8 h after the test meal. beta-Carotene was essentially cleared from the blood by 76 h. Peak beta-carotene concentrations (nmol/g) were observed between 8 and 16 h after ingestion for liver (1.20 +/- 0.04), lung (0.042 +/- 0.012), kidney (0.090 +/- 0.015) and spleen (0.076 +/- 0.012). Ferret liver also seemed to contain a variety of other polar and nonpolar carotenoids. Ferrets were shown to absorb beta-carotene from a meal and have a consistent serum response pattern. Absorbed beta-carotene is differentially distributed in a variety of tissues. The ferret seems to be a useful model for the study of beta-carotene absorption and metabolism.

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