December 6, 2022

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Genetically modified tomatoes may help end severe vitamin D deficiency

Genetically modified tomatoes may help end severe vitamin D deficiency

About a billion people worldwide suffer from vitamin D deficiency, but researchers have come up with an innovative way to give tomatoes a real vitamin D boost and thus make them healthier.

Getting enough vitamin D is very important. For example, it plays an important role in maintaining strong bones, teeth, muscles and a good immune system. However, many people suffer from a deficiency. For example, nearly one billion people worldwide are deficient in vitamin D, which puts them at greater risk of developing certain diseases, such as cancer, Parkinson’s disease and dementia. Additionally, studies have shown that vitamin D deficiency is linked to a more severe form of COVID-19. So the researchers decided to look for ways to eliminate this deficiency. And genetically modified tomatoes may offer a solution.

Vitamin D
The sun is an important source of vitamin D. When our body catches sunlight, it makes its own vitamin D. But in winter and at higher latitudes, the sun is not strong enough and the human body cannot produce vitamin D naturally. Hence people have to get it mainly from food or supplements. Then they rely mainly on fatty fish, meat and eggs. However, this is also where the problem lies. More and more people are trying to follow a vegetarian or even vegan diet. In addition to the foods mentioned, very few foods contain enough vitamin D, meaning that vitamin D deficiency lurks quickly.

Recommended daily amount
It is recommended to take about 10 micrograms of vitamin D daily. For people over 70, the 20 mcg per day tip applies. Since the sun is an important source of vitamin D, it is recommended in the spring, summer and fall to sunbathe for 15 minutes to half an hour daily between 11 am and 3 pm, with at least your head and hands exposed in the sun. to sit down. When a larger part of the body is exposed, a shorter time is sufficient.

Vitamin D is found in our diet in two different forms, ergocalciferol (vitamin D2) and cholecalciferol (vitamin D3). “Currently, all dietary sources of vitamin D3 come from animals,” said researcher Cathy Martin. Scientias. nl† You can get vitamin D2 from mushrooms, but it is not as effective as vitamin D3. Foods rich in vitamin D3 are therefore not suitable for vegetarians or vegans. Therefore, it is based on nutritional supplements prepared from algae or plant lichens. However, it is much more expensive than regular D3 supplements.”

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So the researchers decided to look for ways to deal with vitamin D deficiency. They resorted to … tomatoes. at The new study Martin and her colleagues fixed the genome of this fruit to make sure it contained more vitamin D. Why tomatoes? Tomatoes already naturally contain one of the building blocks of vitamin D3, provitamin D3. However, vitamin D3 does not usually accumulate in ripe tomato fruits. “This is because tomatoes contain an enzyme that converts vitamin D3 into cholesterol,” Martin explains. “However, this means that we can stop this activity without affecting other processes that affect the growth and development of tomato plants. Moreover, we chose tomatoes because they are the most eaten vegetable in the world and are very healthy. It contains, among other things, Important fibers and vitamins. And not unimportant, tomatoes are delicious!”

To dig deeper into this technology, the researchers edited the gene involved in converting provitamin D3 into cholesterol. In doing so, the action of the specific enzyme was blocked. “Using genetic editing, we removed the DNA sequence in the gene that codes for the enzyme,” Martin explains when asked. “This blocked the production of an active enzyme.” The result is the accumulation of vitamin D3 in the fruits and leaves of the tomato plant without affecting the growth, growth or productivity of the plant. And after exposure to ultraviolet light or sunlight, it can be effectively converted into vitamin D.

Researchers report that the vitamin D you can get from genetically modified tomatoes is equivalent to eating two medium-sized eggs or 28 grams of tuna. This is decent. “It’s more than we expected,” Martin says. Currently, no vegetables contain enough vitamin D3. This is because plants naturally produce only very low concentrations.” But genetically modified tomatoes can very well help us get the daily amount offered.

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the taste
By the way, you should not worry that these processed tomatoes are very different from their regular counterparts. “The manipulated fonts look just like their parents,” Martin says. “They differ only by adding or missing a small number of base pairs in the specific target gene. In short, they look and taste just like a regular tomato.”

Accepted resources
So if you are unable to sit in the sun enough or eat foods containing vitamin D3, genetically modified tomatoes may offer a solution. Martin concludes, “Our tomatoes are vegetarian sources of vitamin D3.” “In addition, the leaves – which are currently a waste product – are also rich in provitamin D3 and thus can be used to produce vitamin D3 supplements.”

This means that genetically modified tomatoes may have the potential to do short work of global vitamin D deficiency and be a solution to millions of people around the world. And it’s not just tomatoes that can be tampered with effectively. Researchers say other vegetables can also get a vitamin boost. “We may be able to achieve similar changes in close relatives,” Martin says. “Think of potatoes, eggplant, and peppers.”