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"Let food be thy medicine, and medicine be thy food."
The two-thousand-year-old adage rings truer than ever thanks to advances in gene-edited foods, which could soon be used to treat and prevent a range of illnesses—from hypertension to cancer.
Japanese startup Sanatech Seeds offers a shining example. The firm recently introduced the first-ever gene-edited tomato. These tomatoes pack an impressive nutritional punch, offering up to five times the amount of Gamma-AminoButyric Acid—an amino acid that can help lower blood pressure—found in an ordinary tomato.
Today, half of all American adults have high blood pressure, putting them at increased risk of cardiac arrest, stroke, and even kidney failure. The healthier—and tastier—foods become, the better-equipped Americans will be to manage their illnesses or prevent them altogether.
Thanks to Sanatech's tomatoes, doctors might soon be prescribing salsa, Caprese salad, or fresh bruschetta as means for lowering blood pressure and staying healthy.
And it's not just tomatoes. Here are some other gene-edited crops that could improve our health in the near future:
• Researchers at Murdoch University in Australia are using gene-editing methods to modify the starch content in potatoes, lowering their glycemic index and making them easier on the stomach. Bring on the baked potatoes!
• Scientists at the Institute for Sustainable Agriculture in Spain are working on ways to engineer gluten-free wheat, which would put wheat-based bread back on the table for those with celiac disease.
• At the University of Cape Coast in Ghana, researchers are editing sweet potatoes—a popular Ghanaian crop—to combat dangerous vitamin A deficiencies in developing nations. These super-tubers contain high concentrations of beta carotene, which converts to vitamin A in the body.
• And Calyxt, a Midwestern biotech firm, has already had success editing soybeans to yield oil with more heart-healthy fats.
Staying healthy shouldn't have to be difficult. Through the use of gene-editing in seeds, we can make nutritionally rich foods available and accessible to people all over the world. These foods could be part of the next health revolution as they become an integral aspect of preventive medicine.