Tomatoes as a source of vitamin D

Woman reaches for tomato, animal news
Jie Li, lead author of a study on gene-edited vitamin D tomatoes, examines tomato plants at a lab in the John Innes Centre in Norwich, Britain, May 23, 2022, credit: Phil Robinson at the John Innes Centre/Handout via Reuters

Researchers in England have edited the genetic code of tomatoes so they can become a vital source of vitamin D, which regulates nutrients like calcium that are crucial to keeping teeth, bones, and muscles healthy.

Around one billion people suffer from low vitamin D levels, which can cause severe medical conditions, from cancer to cardiovascular disease.

Vitamin D is created in our bodies once exposed to sunlight, but foods like oily fish, red meat and egg are a major source. Vitamin D added to soy milk, orange juice, and cereal are a good source too. And in the near future, vitamine D can also be found in tomatoes.

A research team led by scientists at the John Innes Centre in Norwich created genetically modified tomatoes with a boosted amount of vitamin D.

“I think that having a dietary source [of vitamin D] in the form of a plant also means that you can get added benefit from eating tomatoes,” Guy Poppy, am ecology professor at the University of Southampton, told Science Media Centre, adding that people “don’t eat enough fruit and [vegetables] anyway.”

More research is needed to have the first vitamin D enhanced tomatoes in supermarkets, but two gene-edited tomatoes should be enough, the study’s lead author, Jie Li, said, adding that the tomatoes look and taste just like ‘normal’ ones.

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