Scientists create even healthier vegetables

May 19, 2004

Brussels, 18 May 2004

Researchers from Bristol University in the UK have created a genetically modified plant that can produce healthy fatty acids normally associated with eggs and fish.

The polyunsaturated fatty acids, known as omega-3 and omage-6, help regulate blood pressure and improve cell signalling. Furthermore, it is thought that omega-3 acids can aid brain development and protect against heart disease and arthritis.

'It's important to get a healthy balance of the two [omega acids],' says Dr Baoxiu Qi who led the team at Bristol University, before moving to the University of Bath. While it is doubtful that anyone will eat its lab-grown Arabidopsis (a relative of the cabbage), the team has now proven that it is possible to modify plants in such a way, which could herald a healthier generation of vegetables.

The human body cannot produce these long-chain fatty acids itself, so they must be obtained through our diet. The most common sources of omega-3 fatty acids are oily fish, while poultry and eggs are good sources of omega-6. However, with declining fish stocks and subsequent higher prices, some believe that alternative sources of these beneficial chemicals must be found, not least vegans and vegetarians.

As well as offering people an alternative means of adding these fatty acids to their diets, similar plants could also be fed to animals, thus introducing the acids into the food chain at an earlier stage.

'Any plants with green tissue, they all have the potential to produce these long-chain fatty acids,' Dr Qi told the BBC. 'If we try to increase the omega-3 fatty acids in a plant, a good source would be linseed; and for the omega-6, I think rapeseed would be quite good, or soya.'

Other attempts to introduce beneficial compounds into everyday food have led to the recent marketing of chicken eggs rich in omega fatty acids. Already known as a good source of omega-6 acids, the eggs were produced by chickens fed on omega-3 rich cereals.

Dr Qi pointed to a further benefit of genetically modified plants rich in polyunsaturated fatty acids - their ability to block methane production in cows' stomachs. This property could help to reduce greenhouse gas emissions, especially in countries where agricultural sources of methane can account for up to 40 per cent of all greenhouse gases.

The team's work was partly funded by the German biotech company BASF, which promises to further investigate this avenue of research. Their hope is that similar genetic modifications designed to produce healthier foods could prove more acceptable to consumers than previous applications of the technology.

CORDIS RTD-NEWS / © European Communities
Item source: http://dbs.cordis.lu/cgi-bin/srchidadb?C ALLER=NHP_EN_NEWS&ACTION=D&SESSION=&RCN= EN_RCN_ID:22046

You've reached your article limit.

Register to continue

Registration is free and only takes a moment. Once registered you can read a total of 3 articles each month, plus:

  • Sign up for the editor's highlights
  • Receive World University Rankings news first
  • Get job alerts, shortlist jobs and save job searches
  • Participate in reader discussions and post comments
Register

Have your say

Log in or register to post comments

Most Commented

James Fryer illustration (27 July 2017)

It is not Luddism to be cautious about destroying an academic publishing industry that has served us well, says Marilyn Deegan

Jeffrey Beall, associate professor and librarian at the University of Colorado Denver

Creator of controversial predatory journals blacklist says some peers are failing to warn of dangers of disreputable publishers

Hand squeezing stress ball
Working 55 hours per week, the loss of research periods, slashed pensions, increased bureaucracy, tiny budgets and declining standards have finally forced Michael Edwards out
Kayaker and jet skiiers

Nazima Kadir’s social circle reveals a range of alternative careers for would-be scholars, and often with better rewards than academia

hole in ground

‘Drastic action’ required to fix multibillion-pound shortfall in Universities Superannuation Scheme, expert warns