Potato is the fourth most widely consumed plant food by humans after rice, wheat and corn, according to the U.S. Department of Agriculture. It is a staple food in some Asian, African and South American countries where there is a high incidence of vitamin A and vitamin E deficiencies.
A serving of the yellow-orange lab-engineered potato has the potential to provide as much as 42 percent of a child’s recommended daily intake of vitamin A and 34 percent of a child’s recommended intake of vitamin E, according to a recent study co-led by researchers at The Ohio State University and published in the journal PLOS ONE.
Women of reproductive age could get 15 percent of their recommended vitamin A and 17 percent of recommended vitamin E from that same 150 gram serving, the researchers concluded.
Vitamin A is essential for vision, immunity, organ development, growth and reproductive health. And Vitamin A deficiency is the leading cause of preventable blindness in children. Vitamin E protects against oxidative stress and inflammation, conditions associated with damage to nerves, muscles, vision and the immune system.
In lab researchers created a simulated digestive system including a virtual mouth, stomach and small intestine to determine how much provitamin A and vitamin E could potentially be absorbed by someone who eats a boiled golden potato. Provitamin A carotenoids are converted by enzymes into vitamin A that the body can use. Carotenoids are fat-soluble pigments that provide yellow, red and orange colors to fruits and vegetables.
The golden potato, which is not commercially available, was metabolically engineered in Italy and published in 2007 in the journal PLOS ONE. Transformation of potato with a bacterial mini-pathway for β-carotene in a tuber-specific manner results in a “golden” potato tuber phenotype resulting from accumulation of provitamin A carotenoids (α- and β-carotene). The additional carotenoids in the tuber make it a more nutritionally dense food with the potential of improving the health of those who rely heavily upon potatoes for nourishment.
The research team stresses that this potato could eventually help prevent childhood blindness and illnesses and even death of infants, children and mothers in developing nations.
Chitchumroonchokchai et al. (2017) Potential of golden potatoes to improve vitamin A and vitamin E status in developing countries. PLoS ONE 12(11): e0187102. https://doi.org/10.1371/journal.pone.0187102
Diretto et al. (2007) Metabolic Engineering of Potato Carotenoid Content through Tuber-Specific Overexpression of a Bacterial Mini-Pathway. PLoS ONE2(4): e350. https://doi.org/10.1371/journal.pone.0000350