Good news for vegans: Scientists turn tomatoes into rich source of vitamin D

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Science unlocks the , vitamin D potential of tomatoes.Vitamin D, a necessary nutrient, is often hard to find outside of fish and dairy products.Vitamin D, a necessary nutrient, is often hard to find outside of fish and dairy products.But now, a team of scientists has found a potential new way to introduce vitamin D in tomatoes.But now, a team of scientists has found a potential new way to introduce vitamin D in tomatoes.Intending to gene edit tomatoes by using CRISPR-Cas9 technology, .researchers hope to introduce the process commercially.Experts say if the technology were to be adopted by farmers and tomato producers, .it could address the problem of vitamin D insufficiency, which currently affects nearly 1 billion people worldwide.This exciting discovery not only improves human health but contributes to the environmental benefits associated with more plant-based diets ... , Guy Poppy, professor of ecology University of Southampton, in interview with Science Media Centre, via CNN.... often linked with a challenge in securing some key vitamins and minerals widely found and bioavailable in animal products. , Guy Poppy, professor of ecology University of Southampton, in interview with Science Media Centre, via CNN.The study was published on May 23 in the journal Nature Plants. .The study was published on May 23 in the journal Nature Plants.

Two studies show genetic modification requires deleting just one gene

The best way to get enough vitamin D is by eating fish, red meat and eggs. Vegetarians can get a boost from fortified dairy, but vegans are left with few options other than mushrooms, yeast and over-the-counter supplements.

Until now.

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An international group of scientists have found a way to unlock the vitamin D potential of tomatoes.

“This could be a game changer” for countries with a history of vitamin D deficiency, Esther van der Knaap, a plant geneticist at the University of Georgia, told Science.

Science has shown vitamin D is vital to maintaining healthy bones and boosts your immune system. In addition, according to WebMD, there is “mounting evidence that links low levels of the vitamin to an increased risk of Type 1 diabetes, muscle and bone pain, and, perhaps more serious, cancers of the breast, colon, prostate, ovaries, esophagus, and lymphatic system.”

In addition to people on a plant-based diet, residents of countries in high latitudes experience vitamin D deficiency. Why? They aren’t exposed to enough UVB radiation to help the body convert a precursor into a form of usable vitamin D.

Tomatoes make that precursor naturally, and “two groups thought some genetic tweaking could turn them into an animal-free source of the vitamin,” Science wrote.

In a study published Monday in the journal Nature Plants, researchers used CRISPR-Cas9 technology to genetically alter tomatoes. By deleting one gene, they were able to create a fruit with 20% of the U.K.’s recommended daily allowance of vitamin D.

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A second study, by scientists in Seoul, found that deleting a related gene produced a tomato with even more vitamin D precursor. This study is not yet peer reviewed.

Although the modified tomatoes have been grown only in laboratories so far, both groups said they plan to begin field tests in the next few months to see how well the fruits do in real-world settings.

Eating a tomato is “so much better than taking a pill,” Cathie Martin, a professor at the John Innes Centre in Norwich, England, and co-author of the published study, said at a news briefing.

“I think that having a dietary source in the form of a plant also means that you can get added benefit from eating tomatoes. We don’t eat enough fruit and veg anyway. A tomato is a good source of vitamin C, as well,” she added.

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