Tomatoes More Nutritious
By David Elstein
June 24, 2002
Agricultural Research Service scientists
have developed tomatoes that have higher lycopene levels, enhanced fruit juice
quality, and longer vine life. Their study, conducted with researchers at
Purdue University, is published in the
current issue of Nature Biotechnology.
The scientists, based at the ARS
Vegetable Laboratory in Beltsville, Md., genetically engineered tomatoes
that contain increased levels of compounds called polyamines. The scientists
found that polyamines--organic molecules carrying amino groups--play an
important role in fruit development and found that increasing polyamines
Diets high in lycopene, the red pigment in tomatoes, are associated with a
lower risk of certain cancers. Lycopene is a carotenoid antioxidant that may
also have other health- promoting effects.
According to plant physiologist Autar Mattoo, other researchers studying
human nutrition have recommended that people get 10 milligrams of lycopene each
day--the amount in 10-15 tomatoes. By comparison, just one or two of the new
tomatoes would provide the same amount of lycopene. The tomatoes that Mattoo
and cooperators studied were especially well-suited for products such as tomato
The ARS-led research is the first to show direct evidence of a physiological
role for polyamines in plants.
The new tomatoes are available for industry to commercialize, according to
ARS is the U.S. Department of
Agricultures chief scientific research agency.