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New Vitamin D Food: Tomatoes

Food scientists use gene editing to make tomatoes even better for our health.

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Tomatoes as vitamin d food

Vitamin D helps strengthen our bones and immune system, but there are few reliable Vitamin D food sources (such as fish and fortified milk), and that’s a big reason why so many Americans have low levels. (Our bodies can also make the nutrient when skin is exposed to UVB light).

But soon a bowl of spaghetti with tomato sauce might help us get what we need.

According to research published in Nature Plants, scientists have developed a way using a gene-blocking technique with tomatoes to make them a good vitamin D food source. It turns out that the compound in the human skin that can make vitamin D known as 7-DHC, or provitamin D3, is also present in tomato plant leaves and unripe green tomatoes.

The researchers were able to block a gene in tomato plants that normally converts 7-DHC into cholesterol, which then enabled 7-DHC to accumulate in the ripe tomato fruit. To then convert this provitamin D3 into active vitamin D3, the tomatoes were treated with UVB light.

The investigators believe that if this process is adopted commercially by farmers and producers, tomatoes could help address vitamin D insufficiency in the American populace as well as making tomatoes an important nutritional source for those who eat only plants.

See also: The Importance of Vitamin D

Matthew Kadey, MS, RD

Matthew Kadey, MS, RD, is a James Beard Award–winning food journalist, dietitian and author of the cookbook Rocket Fuel: Power-Packed Food for Sport + Adventure (VeloPress 2016). He has written for dozens of magazines, including Runner’s World, Men’s Health, Shape, Men’s Fitness and Muscle and Fitness.

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