Is THIS golden potato the key to eternal life?
With a high incidence of vitamin A and E deficiencies in some Asian, African and South American countries, nutritionists have developed a potato that could be life-saving.
Lack of vitamin A is the leading cause of preventable blindness in children while vitamin E deficiency is linked to conditions associated with damage to nerves, muscles, vision and the immune system.
The lab-engineered “golden” potato can provide as much as 42 per cent of a child’s recommended daily intake of vitamin A and 34 per cent its vitamin E from a 5.3oz serving.
Mark Failla, professor emeritus of human nutrition at Ohio State University, said: “More than 800,000 people depend on the potato as their main source of energy and many of these individuals are not consuming adequate amounts of these vital nutrients.
“These golden tubers have far more vitamin A and vitamin E than white potatoes, and that could make a significant difference in certain populations where deficiencies – and related diseases – are common.”
Professor Failla said “hidden hunger” – deficiencies in micronutrients – has been a problem for decades in many developing countries because staple food crops were bred for high yield and pest resistance rather than nutritional quality.
He said: “This golden potato would be a way to provide a much more nutritious food that people are eating many times a week, or even several times a day.”
The super-spud was metabolically engineered in Italy by a scientists who added carotenoids to the potato to make it a more nutritionally dense food with the potential of improving the health of those who rely heavily upon potatoes for nourishment.
Carotenoids are fat-soluble pigments that provide yellow, red and orange colours to fruit and veg and are essential nutrients for animals and humans.
The team acknowledged there was some opposition to the kind of lab-engineering that created the potato but said it could eventually help prevent childhood blindness and illnesses and even death of infants, children and mothers in developing nations.
Giovanni Giuliano of Rome’s Casaccia Research Center said: “We have to keep an open mind, remembering that nutritional requirements differ in different countries and that our final goal is to provide safe, nutritious food to 9 billion people worldwide.”