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Originally published August 1 2008

Scientists Genetically Engineer "Super Carrot" Rich in Calcium

by David Gutierrez, staff writer

(NaturalNews) Researchers at the Baylor College of Medicine in Texas have genetically engineered a carrot to provide more calcium, according to a paper published in the Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences.

In the past, most genetically engineered products have been marketed to farmers, claiming to provide benefits such as herbicide resistance. The "super carrot," however is part of a new trend toward products that claim to provide a direct benefit to consumers. Other researchers are working to modify potatoes to absorb less oil during frying, and to boost the cancer-fighting-chemical content of broccoli.

While carrots contain naturally occurring calcium, the mineral is poorly absorbed by the human body. In the modified carrots, a gene has been changed to allow calcium to move more freely across the carrot's cell membranes.

To test the carrot, researchers fed both normal and genetically modified carrots to 15 women and 15 men between the ages of 21 and 29, then conducted urine tests to determine calcium absorption. The researchers found that participants absorbed 41 percent more calcium from the genetically modified carrot than from the natural variety.

That amounts to a calcium content of between 27 and 29 milligrams per 100 grams (four ounces) of modified carrots.

The recommended dose of calcium is 1,000 milligrams per day. Researchers acknowledged that the carrots by themselves could never provide a person with enough calcium.

"In the future, this would be to simply offer consumers that choice," said researcher Jay Morris. The researchers also suggested that other plants could also be modified to provide more calcium.

Researcher Kendal Hirschi noted that the carrots still have to pass safety tests before they can be provided to consumers.

Dairy products are a well-known source of dietary calcium, but many people cannot eat them due to allergies, or choose not to for health or other reasons. Green leafy vegetables are also a good dietary source of calcium.

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