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Genetically enhanced flavonoid tomatoes could reduce cardiovascular disease


* BASF Plant Science participation in international study on flavonoid enhanced tomatoes

* Genetically enhanced tomatoes significantly reduce health risk markers in mice

Tomatoes, genetically modified to contain a higher level of flavonoids, have in a recent study shown to substantially reduce a protein, the so-called C-reactive protein (CRP), in mice. CRP is linked to inflammatory processes in mice as well as human beings and is associated with a higher risk of heart and vascular diseases as well as type-2 diabetes.

Flavonoids are plant metabolites known for their anti-oxidant activity.

To compare the effects of flavonoid-enriched and conventional tomatoes, scientist daily fed two groups of mice 12 milligrams of genetically enhanced and conventional tomato peel respectively. To a human adult, this is equivalent to a daily consumption of approximately 230 grams, or three fresh tomatoes. After seven weeks, the level of C-reactive protein was reduced considerably in both groups of mice. However, the level was significantly lower in the group of mice fed genetically modified tomato peel.

“Although the health benefits of tomatoes and other fruits and vegetables are commonly known, this is the first time that a specific fruit has demonstrated to reduce C-reactive protein and thus could help to reduce the risk of cardiovascular and heart disease,” says Dr. Dietrich Rein, BASF Plant Science’s nutritionist. He adds that 95% of the beneficial tomato flavonoids are in the peel.

The biological mechanisms by which fruits and vegetables reduce human C-reactive protein and thus exert their benefits on human health are not fully understood and are likely to be numerous. Nevertheless, Professor Dr. Uwe Sonnewald, University of Erlangen, coordinator of the study, stresses the importance of the findings: “It shows that genetic enhancement of fruits and vegetables may in the future allow an optimization of the human diet and help reduce diseases.”

The study was carried out by an interdisciplinary team with expertise in the field of plant molecular physiology, genetics, biochemistry, nutritional and analytical biology. Participating partners: TNO, Plant Research International (both Dutch applied scientific research organisations) and BASF Plant Science with support from the EU project, ProFood.

A scientific article on the subject was published in The Journal of Nutrition, September issue (“Transgenic Flavonoid Tomato Intake Reduces C-Reactive Protein in Human C-Reactive Protein Transgenic Mice More Than Wild Type Tomato”; Rein et al. Journal of Nutrition, 2006; 136: 2331-2337).

About BASF Plant Science

In order to take advantage of the possibilities of plant biotechnology, BASF, a leader in the areas of agricultural products and fine chemicals, founded BASF Plant Science in 1998 as its own biotechnology company. BASF Plant Science coordinates a research and development platform in Europe and North America with about 600 employees working to optimize crops for the following sectors: more efficient agriculture, renewable raw materials for specialty products and healthier nutrition. These include, for example, plants with improved agronomic characteristics, a higher content of vitamins or omega-3 fatty acids for preventing cardiovascular diseases. To find out more about BASF Plant Science, please visit:


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