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The UK approves gene editing, will “superfoods” appear? – yqqlm



This article comes from the WeChat public account:SF Chinese (ID: kexuejiaodian)Author: SF

With the UK government’s recent approval for the commercial development of gene-edited food, tastier, more nutritious food could soon be hitting supermarket shelves.

Text | Emma Beckett

Editor | Jiayu Liu

“Superfood” refers to foods that are rich in nutrients and have obvious antioxidant effects.Such as asparagus, cauliflower, kiwi, algae, beans and so on. Superfoods are often touted as being especially beneficial to our health. But at the moment, the concept is mostly just marketing hype, designed to sell us expensive or imported fruits and vegetables rather than offer us any real meaning. However, that could all change as gene editing is now approved by the UK government for commercial crop use.

Gene editing makes nutrition more comprehensive?

Gene editing using technologies such as CRISPR/Cas9 or TALENs is faster, cheaper than traditional breeding techniques, and less controversial than genetically modified food. This is because,Rather than inserting entire genes from outside the plant like GMOs, gene editing allows small, targeted changes to subtly alter the genetic makeup of existing crops, potentially allowing us to create foods with different properties.

We all know that fruits, vegetables, and whole grains are good for us, but most people don’t eat them in healthy quantities or types.One of the ideas behind gene-edited crops is that the nutrient levels of certain fruits and vegetables could be improved, making it easier for us to eat a healthy, balanced diet.

In fact, many crops based on this idea have already been produced. For example, soybeans and canola have been edited to suppress a gene to produce a healthier fat structure, making their oil more like olive oil. Likewise, bananas and rice are packed with extra vitamin A. And other crops are rich in vitamin E, iron and zinc simply by making tiny edits to existing genes.

These nutrients have been identified as early targets because they are major deficiencies in many people’s diets. But clever editing could mean we need to eat fewer servings of fruits and vegetables to be nutritionally balanced. Imagine that one apple could provide you with all your daily vitamin and mineral needs, such that an apple a day could literally keep the doctor away.

Image source: sciencefocus

What’s more, gene-edited food sources may be superior to current methods of nutritional supplementation, such as supplements, meal replacements, and fortified foods. Supplements contain high doses of vitamins, but do not provide satiation or satiety, nor are they conducive to socializing with meals. Nutrient solutions and meal replacements also have these problems.

Likewise, fortified foods can add extra nutrients to everyday staples, such as margarine. The food is tasty, functional and reasonably priced. But these foods aren’t necessarily the healthiest choices.

Make food medicinal?

The concept of using food as medicine has existed since ancient times, which not only stems from the research on the nutritional properties of food, but also from the research on the bioactive components of food. Bioactive substances are natural compounds that are necessary in the body, but beneficial to health. These are especially high in plant foods. For example, polyphenols, short-chain fatty acids, and sterols, have biological benefits for inflammation, obesity, cardiovascular health, cognition, and more.

Gene editing may open the door to designing natural foods with pharmaceutical functions, not only to improve physical health but also mental health. At the same time, it can avoid the disadvantage of unhealthy food caused by only adding a single functional ingredient, and edit out the food characteristics that may cause harm.

Image source: sciencefocus

Tomatoes are currently the first gene-edited food to be sold on the market. Japanese researchers used gene editing techniques to increase the amount of gamma-aminobutyric acid (GABA, which is beneficial for heart and mental health conditions) in tomatoes, while reducing the amount of oxalic acid in tomatoes.

High levels of oxalate can trigger gout attacks, so the commercialization of gene editing may move toward “prescription foods,” combining food as medicine with personalized nutrition. Foods that may need to be avoided due to allergies or intolerances can also be edited to bring them back on the table.

Unfortunately, the best foods for the body are often the foods we find least palatable, so it’s important to make healthy foods tastier. Gene editing can be used to enhance sweetness, reduce bitterness, and tune out flavors and aromas. This could encourage people to eat healthier plant-based foods. Companies are already developing less bitter vegetables and more intensely flavored fruits.

find balance

However, the complexity of food means we can’t just create new nutrient-dense foods,One cannot just assume that higher nutrient content will translate into greater benefits.Nutrients, bioactives, and other components in food all interact. Some combinations promote the absorption and action of others, but in other cases the interactions lead to reduced absorption or function through binding or competition.

Another important point is to make sure that the beneficial compounds are not edited out, because negative properties such as bitterness often come from beneficial bioactive compounds. At the same time, when we edit sweetness or flavor, we also avoid adding calories to food. Likewise, adding nutrients and bioactives can adversely affect taste, so a balance needs to be found.

The potential improvements to nutrition and health from gene editing are virtually endless. But because foods are so complex, scientists need to be more careful to make sure they don’t make any false assumptions about benefits.


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