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Eating the rainbow is a smart habit. That’s because colorful foods have been found to hold special nutrition that helps promote a healthy life.
Those foods with purple and blue hues contain antioxidants known as anthocyanins, that seem to impact human genes in a way that could slow aging and fight cancer by switching off certain cancer genes and increasing the power of a gene that suppresses tumors.
And now, it might be easier than ever to get a major dose of those cancer-fighting anthocyanins simply by eating a salad thanks to a gene-hacked fruit that has just received approval in the United States.
Fighting cancer in the produce section
The superfruit we’re talking about is a genetically modified purple tomato that has been designed to have 10 times the antioxidants the traditional fruit has, by crossing it with genes from a snapdragon flower.
First developed in 2008, the tomato was created by researchers at Norfolk Plant Sciences to dramatically level up the amount of anthocyanins a normal tomato has to offer in order to increase its health-protecting benefits — which is already pretty amazing.
But the two genes added to the Norfolk tomatoes were specifically chosen because they are the ones that give the snapdragon flower (and now the tomato itself) its unique purple color.
The beautiful hue is a result of those anthocyanins, which are antioxidants pigments that can also be found in array of berries, including blackberries and cranberries and which exert a powerful cancer-fighting effect by mopping up dangerous free radicals.
And while anthocyanins are naturally produced in tomato plants, until now, they could only be found in the leaves.
But crossing the plant with a snapdragon took care of that problem, packing the fruit of the tomato plant with rich levels of cancer fighters.
Anthocyanins in action
So, how effective are these antioxidants in the battle for better health?
Well, after developing the tomato, the Norfolk researchers were curious about that question as well…
And they set out to test the purple fruit to find the answer.
To do so, the team fed the genetically modified tomato to mice that were riddled with cancer, comparing them to a group of mice that were given only traditional tomatoes, lacking anthocyanins.
And the results were impressive.
The team found that mice fed the purple super tomato lived an average of 30 percent longer than the ones who were given the traditional fruit.
Getting your anthocyanin punch
Now after years of development and testing, the tomato is soon to be available to the US market — the first genetically modified product to be given approval to be grown in American soil without restrictions.
But despite that approval, don’t expect to see purple tomatoes popping up in the produce section of your local grocery store.
Right now, the Norfolk team plans to only sell the seeds of their creation to home growers.
So if you want to take advantage of its anthocyanin-packed powers, you’ll need to grow it yourself.
Not a gardener?
That’s okay, neither am I!
Luckily, this latest genetically-modified franken-tomato isn’t the only source you can go to for a big hit of cancer-fighting antioxidants.
That’s because as we mentioned earlier, berries are great sources of anthocyanins. In fact, one of the claims to fame for this big purple tomato is that its anthocyanin content is similar to levels found in blueberries.
That’s right, you can dish a big old bowl right now. But not only that, eat your berries with milk and you could get 10 more times the benefits, according to another recent study.
According to the company behind the new tomatoes, “Research shows that many consumers are open to bioengineering approaches to improve the nutrition and sustainability of their food. Other consumers prefer non-GMO verified and organic options, which are readily available today.”
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