Plants altered to produce fish oils

May 26, 2004 in Food Companies, Manufacturing and Trends

Plants altered to produce fish oils

It seems that scientists from the UK have found a way to add heart-healthy fatty acids to plants. A team lead by the University of Bath, UK, genetically altered a cress plant to produce both omega-3 and omega-6 fatty acids, which are thought to be protective against cardiovascular disease. These oils are also important for infant brain and eye development.

It is possible to consume plenty of these heart-healthy fatty acids in the diet. Omega-3 fatty acids are most abundant in salmon, mackerel, sardines and other fatty fish, while good sources of omega-6 fatty acids include a variety of plant oils, such as soybean oil. In most industrialized societies, however, many people do not eat a diet rich in omega fatty acids.

The researchers took genes from algae and mushrooms and inserted them into a variety of cress plant. The genetically altered plants looked the same as naturally occurring cress, but there was an important difference. The altered plants accumulated several types of omega-3 and omega-6 fatty acids.

Despite the success of the effort, don't expect to see fish-oil-enriched produce at your local market anytime soon. More research is needed on the genetic modification of plants to accumulate fatty acids, according to the researchers.

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