Vitamin D insufficiency is a serious global health problem affecting about a billion people worldwide.
This nutritional deficiency can lead to various health issues like:
- Neurocognitive decline
- Parkinson’s disease
- Increased severity of COVID-19 symptoms
- Increased risk of cancer
- Increased risk of all-cause mortality, etc.
You can get vitamin D by exposing your skin to direct sunlight or UVB rays. But this may present a challenge as many countries (especially northern ones) have a limited amount of sun during the year.
On top of that, there are various health concerns related to prolonged exposure to potentially dangerous sun rays.
Another reason why vitamin D is so difficult to come by is that food sources of vitamin D, especially plant-based ones, are somewhat limited in their ability to provide adequate amounts of this vitamin.
That’s why a group of scientists decided to use novel, Nobel-prize-winning technology called CRISPR to create genetically edited tomatoes, specifically made to produce vitamin D3.
The flesh and the peel of this newly-created tomato fruit are designed to contain the same vitamin D levels as 28 g of tuna or two eggs, the most recommended dietary sources of this vitamin.
Additionally, the team of scientists discovered that these genetically engineered tomatoes also have vitamin-D3-rich leaves that can be used in vitamin D supplement production.
The leaves contain as much as 600 mcg of provitamin D3 per gram — 60 times the recommended vitamin D intake for adults.
This discovery might pave the way to better sustainable nutrition for everyone in need of vitamin D3. This is especially significant for vegans, who can’t consume some of the most potent sources of vitamin D3, as they typically come from animals.