Submitted to: Nutrition Reviews
Publication Type: Review Article
Publication Acceptance Date: December 15, 1999
Publication Date: N/A
Technical Abstract: Recent advances in plant molecular biology, functional genomics, and biochemistry have opened up a number of new avenues of research that will enable plant biologists to characterize, increase and modify plant content of a wide range of essential minerals and vitamins, as well as a number of secondary plant compounds that appear to play a role in improving human health and nutrition. In this review, several examples of exciting new research applying plant genomic and molecular genetic approaches to the improvement of phytonutrient content and composition in plants are presented. Research focusing on the elucidation of many of these complex biosynthetic and transport pathways in plants will require considerable resources in terms of funding, time and personnel. As plant biologists move into interdisciplinary collaborations with human nutritionists and food scientists, attention must be paid to a more complete identification and characterization of specific bioactive phytonutrients. Also, a more detailed assessment of the health promoting properties of these compounds is needed, particularly for many of the secondary plant compounds for which clear epidemiological and clinical data are still lacking. Finally, in order for significant progress toward nutritional modification of crops to occur, a major investment has to be made by funding agencies. Certainly ARS, which has the potential to be a leader in this emerging research field, should strongly consider making a major investment to support the many ARS plant biologists, human nutritionists and food scientists poised to move into this exciting and potentially rewarding field.