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Nutrition studies have provided unambiguous evidence that a number of human health maladies including chronic coronary artery, hypertension, diabetes, osteoporosis, cancer and age- and lifestyle-related diseases are associated with the diet. Several favorable and a few deleterious natural dietary ingredients have been identified that predispose human populations to various genetic and epigenetic based disorders. Media dissemination of this information has greatly raised public awareness of the beneficial effects due to increased consumption of fruit, vegetables and whole grain cereals-foods rich in phytonutrients, protein and fiber. However, the presence of intrinsically low levels of the beneficial phytonutrients in the available genotypes of crop plants is not always at par with the recommended daily allowance (RDA) for different phytonutrients (nutraceuticals). Molecular engineering of crop plants has offered a number of tools to markedly enhance intracellular concentrations of some of the beneficial nutrients, levels that, in some cases, are closer to the RDA threshold. This review brings together literature on various strategies utilized for bioengineering both major and minor crops to increase the levels of desirable phytonutrients while also decreasing the concentrations of deleterious metabolites. Some of these include increases in: protein level in potato; lysine in corn and rice; methionine in alfalfa; carotenoids (beta-carotene, phytoene, lycopene, zeaxanthin and lutein) in rice, potato, canola, tomato; choline in tomato; folates in rice, corn, tomato and lettuce; vitamin C in corn and lettuce; polyphenolics such as flavonol, isoflavone, resveratrol, chlorogenic acid and other flavonoids in tomato; anthocyanin levels in tomato and potato; alpha-tocopherol in soybean, oil seed, lettuce and potato; iron and zinc in transgenic rice. Also, molecular engineering has succeeded in considerably reducing the levels of the offending protein glutelin in rice, offering proof of concept and a new beginning for the development of super-low glutelin cereals for celiac disease patients.

Type

Journal article

Journal

Adv Exp Med Biol

Publication Date

2010

Volume

698

Pages

122 - 143

Keywords

Antioxidants, Ascorbic Acid, Carotenoids, Cell Proliferation, Crops, Agricultural, Diet, Dietary Supplements, Flavonoids, Folic Acid, Genetic Engineering, Humans, Iron, Nutrition Disorders, Phenols, Plant Extracts, Polyphenols, Tocopherols