Now, a team of researchers have come up with a potential new and vegan source of vitamin D: tomatoes
gene edited using CRISPR-Cas9
technology to contain a precursor to vitamin D.
If the process is adopted commercially by farmers and producers, these tomatoes could help address vitamin D insufficiency, which the study said affects 1 billion people globally.
"This exciting discovery not only improves human health but contributes to the environmental benefits associated with more plant-based diets -- often linked with a challenge in securing some key vitamins and minerals widely found and bioavailable in animal products," Guy Poppy, a professor of ecology at the University of Southampton, told the Science Media Centre in London. He wasn't involved in the research.
Vitamin D supplements are widely available in many countries, but coauthor Cathie Martin, a professor at the John Innes Centre in Norwich, England, said that eating a tomato was "so much better than taking a pill."
"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. We don't eat enough fruit and veg anyway. A tomato is a good source of vitamin C as well," she said at a news briefing.
published Monday in the scientific journal Nature Plants.
The main source of vitamin D for most people is dietary, but our body also makes the micronutrient when skin is exposed to UVB light -- that's why it's sometimes called the sunshine vitamin. The scientists harnessed a similar process in tomato plants.
The compound in the skin that can make vitamin D is known as 7-DHC, or provitamin D3, and it's also found in tomato plant leaves and unripe green fruit.
The researchers blocked a gene in tomato plants that normally converts provitamin D3 into cholesterol, which enabled provitamin D3 to accumulate in the ripe tomat