Tomatoes are genetically modified to produce a lot of vitamin D.

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Vitamin D or “sun vitamin”, an important element in many of our metabolic pathways in our body, plays a crucial role in our health. If we tend to think that it is enough to devote oneself to the Sun to get it, it happens that it is not enough, depending on the country (the sun). It is then necessary to turn to nutritional resources, especially in winter, when sunlight is weakest. However, most foods contain very little vitamin D and even less so in plants (especially fruits and vegetables). Researchers then developed genetically modified tomatoes to create true vitamin D ‘biological plants’ that could possibly limit leaf wastage, especially in the production of vitamin D-rich natural food supplements.

Vitamin D is involved in many vital physiological processes in our body, such as the binding of calcium to the bones, and contributes to its good overall development (or post-traumatic recovery). It also plays a vital role in strengthening and properly functioning the immune system, including inflammatory processes. Thus, vitamin D deficiency can affect, for example, the risk of cancer and may even be related to the severity of SARS-CoV-2 infections.COVID-19), according to some research. Deficiency may also be a risk factor for the development of neurological pathologies such as Parkinson’s disease and dementia, including Alzheimer’s disease. This involvement is explained by the role of vitamin D in the signaling pathways of important neurotransmitters.

When exposed to ultraviolet light, our skin naturally synthesizes vitamin D3, the most naturally available form of vitamin D. However, this ability can vary greatly from person to person. In addition, high-latitude regions are very poorly exposed to the sun in winter. Therefore, gaps need to be filled with nutrients. However, most of the foods we eat are low in vitamin D, so we need to eat a wide variety of foods to meet the needs of this vitamin. We also sometimes need to take dietary supplements such as cod liver oil.

In addition, there is a certain trend today towards a vegetarian or vegan diet. For those concerned, however, vitamin D resources are even lower because they are much less in plants than in fish or meat. Researchers of a new study published in the journal Nature Plantsthen offer a new source of vitamin D that is apparently easy to produce and readily available in the long run.

Our pro-vitamin D fortified tomatoes are an indispensable plant source of “sun vitamin”. ”, Announces a communicated Dr Jie Li, principal author of the study and a doctoral student at the John Innes Institute, UK. ” This is great news for people on a vegetarian diet – vegetarian or vegan – and more and more people around the world are suffering from vitamin D deficiency. “She adds.” 40% of Europeans and one billion people in the world are actually deficient in vitamin D.

Vitamin D in leaves and fruits

British researchers used the CRISPR-Cas9 gene editing technique to give birth to their new tomato plants. In particular, they inactivated a specific gene from the parent plant (wild tomato) to increase the levels of provitamin D3 in the leaves and fruit. When exposed to ultraviolet light, these molecules are converted to vitamin D3.

Be aware that tomato leaves naturally contain molecules called 7-dehydrocholesterol (7-DHC) that can act as provitamin D3. However, they are present only in small amounts and do not accumulate in ripe fruit. In particular, the original plant secretes a specific enzyme called S1-DR2, which breaks down 7-DHC into other molecules.

The researchers then modified the tomato genome to make the enzyme inactive so that 7-DHC would reach the ripe fruit. Subsequently, the amount of 7-DHC in genetically modified plants increased to 600 micrograms per gram of dried leaves (the recommended daily allowance for an adult is about 10 micrograms). The leaves of these tomatoes can be consumed or turned into by-products rather than discarded, unlike the leaves of the original tomatoes.

In addition, 7-DHC has also been observed in fetuses. Exposed to ultraviolet light for one hour, the leaves and cut fruits were rich in vitamin D3. One tomato contained vitamin D3, equivalent to two medium-sized eggs or 28 grams of tuna. According to the authors of the study, this amount can be further increased, for example, by prolonging the presence of the sun during drying.

In addition, blocking the enzyme will not affect the growth or yield of tomato plants. In addition, this method can be applied to other Solanaceae (potatoes, aubergines, peppers, paprika, etc.) with 7-DHC biochemical pathways similar to tomatoes.

Source: Nature Plants

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