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NZ: Future potato could supply daily vitamin C

It may be possible, in the future, to get all your daily vitamin C requirements from the consumption of a single potato.

Scientists at Plant & Food Research are investigating how vitamin C is made in plants and have identified the gene that controls the level of vitamin C in fruits and vegetables.

"Vitamin C is essential in the human body to ensure healthy cell function..."  says Dr William Laing, lead scientist on the study. Humans obtain most of their vitamin C from plant sources but, as many food sources are relatively low in vitamin C, many people add to their vitamin C intake with synthetic supplements.

"By understanding how vitamin C levels are controlled in plants, particularly in the edible fruits or tubers, there is potential to develop new varieties of common crops with higher levels of natural vitamin C."

The scientists artificially added a plant gene controlling GDP-galactose phosphorylase (GGP), an enzyme important in the production of vitamin C, to different varieties of strawberry, potato and tomato. The results, published in the Plant Biotechnology Journal, showed that ascorbate levels could be increased by up to 500%.

"These experiments suggest that new varieties of plants could be bred that produce enough naturally occurring vitamin C that the recommended daily amount could be achieved by eating, for example, only one average-sized potato," continues Dr Laing. "These new varieties would have the potential to reduce vitamin C deficiency in populations with reduced access to fruits and vegetables by allowing them to meet recommended levels through consumption of potatoes and other staple foods.

"Consumers in many countries have concerns about the inclusion of transgenic foods in their diet, so the next challenge is how to use this genetic information to speed up the breeding of new non-transgenic varieties with naturally-high levels of vitamin C," says Dr Laing.

Source: www.voxy.co.nz

Publication date: 4/4/2012


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