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United States Department of Agriculture

Agricultural Research Service

Title: Total Fumonisins Are Reduced in Tortillas Using the Traditional Nixtamalization Methods of Mayan Communities

Authors
item Palencia, Edwin - INCAP, GUATEMALA, CA
item Torres, Olga - INCAP, GUATEMALA, CA
item Hagler, Winston - POUL SCI/NC STATE U
item Meredith, Filmore
item Williams, Lonnie
item RILEY, RONALD

Submitted to: Journal of Nutrition
Publication Type: Peer Reviewed Journal
Publication Acceptance Date: July 5, 2003
Publication Date: November 1, 2003
Citation: Palencia, E., Torres, O., Hagler, W., Meredith, F.I., Williams, L.D., Riley, R.T. 2003. Total fumonisins are reduced in tortillas using the traditional nixtamalization methods of mayan communities. JOURNAL OF NUTRITION 133:3200-3203.

Interpretive Summary: Fumonisin B1 (FB) is a carcinogenic mycotoxin found mainly in corn. In the preparation of tortillas, maize is treated with lime, which when heated changes the FB into a new compound called HFB. Lime processing of maize is called nixtamalization and when conducted in a laboratory setting or on a commercial or pilot scale, reduces the total FB content. The purpose of the present study was to determine if and how nixtamalization as practiced by Mayan communities in the Central Highlands of Guatemala reduces the level of FB in tortillas. Analysis of the tortillas prepared by the traditional process revealed that nixtamalization reduced the FB content by approximately 50%. The total FB plus HFB in the lime-water used to cook the maize and water washes accounted for approximately 50% of the total FB originally in the uncooked maize. The most important step in the process is the cooking and steeping in the lime-water. The results show that the traditional method is equally effective in reducing total fumonisins in tortillas compared to either the commercial process or the laboratory pilot-scale process of nixtamalization.

Technical Abstract: Fumonisin B1 (FB1) is a carcinogenic mycotoxin found mainly in maize. In the preparation of tortillas, maize is treated with lime, which when heated hydrolyzes at least a portion of the FB1 to the aminopentol backbone (AP1 or HFB1). Several studies have shown that the alkali processing of maize (nixtamalization), when conducted in a laboratory setting or on a commercial or pilot scale, reduces the total fumonisin content. The purpose of the present study was to 1) determine if nixtamalization as practiced by Mayan communities in the Central Highlands of Guatemala reduces the level of fumonisins in tortillas, 2) determine the steps in the traditional process where reduction in fumonisin levels occur, and 3) develop a means to predict the level of fumonisin in the maize used to prepare tortillas based on the levels of fumonisins recovered in the final product. Analysis of the tortillas prepared by the traditional process revealed easily detectable amounts of FB1, FB2 and FB3 and their hydrolyzed counterparts. There was approximately equal molar amounts of FB1 and HFB1 in the cooked tortillas but the total molar amount of FB1 plus HFB1 was reduced approximately 50%. The total FB1 plus HFB1 in the lime-water used to cook the maize and water washes accounted for approximately 50% of the total FB1 originally in the uncooked maize and the three fractions (tortillas, lime-water and washes) together accounted for 94% of the FB1 that was in the uncooked maize. While HFB1 and FB1 were present in approximately equal molar amounts in the uncooked masa dough, cooked tortillas and water washes of the cooked maize the amount of HFB1 in lime-water after steeping was much greater than FB1. A total of 11% of the FB1 in the uncooked maize was accounted for in the combined water washes. The results show that the traditional method is equally effective in reducing total fumonisins in tortillas compared to either the commercial process or the laboratory pilot-scale process of nixtamalization.

Last Modified: 7/25/2014