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GM Purple Tomatoes Could Actually Be Good for You

These tomatoes are stuffed with anthocyanins (but they're not the only source of the healthy pigment)

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In the small Canadian town of Leamington, Ontario, a greenhouse at New Energy Farms shelters something strange—tomatoes with flesh that's been dyed a deep purple. The tomatoes are genetically modified, designed by researchers at the UK's John Innes Centre to be packed with anthocyanins, the purple pigment that gives blueberries their hue, says the CBC

Purple tomatoes fit an increasingly popular food maxim: the more colorful the food, the better it likely is for you. So, given the option, you'd want to eat purple potatoes or purple (or orange) cauliflower rather than boring old white veggies.

In this case, it's not an entirely misguided idea. The benefits of anthocyanins are one of the few food-related health claims shored up by abundant research. In a recent review study, scientists found that anthocyanins might be able to help with inflammation, heart health, vision, and even help inhibit certain types of cancers. Most of the research is done in animal models or in the lab, not humans, and the European Food Safety Authority questions the claim about vision. But compared to most other supposed superfoods, anthocyanins have a decent track record.

If anthocyanins are all you're after, though, purple potatoes and genetically modified tomatoes are not the only way to go. Anthocyanins are everywhere, from grapes to blackcurrants to pomegranates, purple corn, red cabbage, and red wine. Anthocyanins, for their rich purple color, are even used as a food-additive coloring agent. So if GM tomatoes are not really your jam, but you still want to try to maximize the utility of every calorie, grab a purple smoothie.

The video above was produced by the John Innes Centre, the research centre that produced the purple tomatoes. Salt should be applied liberally.

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About Colin Schultz
Colin Schultz

Colin Schultz is a freelance science writer and editor based in Toronto, Canada. He blogs for Smart News and contributes to the American Geophysical Union. He has a B.Sc. in physical science and philosophy, and a M.A. in journalism.

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