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Increasing Calcium in Carrots and Other Vegetables

By Alfredo Flores
November 19, 2008

Carrots have been modified to have higher amounts of calcium, according to studies by Agricultural Research Service (ARS)-funded scientists who report that the research could be used to add this valuable nutrient to other crops.

The current U.S. recommended adequate intake of calcium for adults aged 19 to 50 is 1,000 milligrams daily. But inadequate dietary calcium is a global concern, and poor diets and exercise habits prevent many people from achieving and maintaining optimal bone health. Calcium is a key component for healthy bones.

At the Children’s Nutrition Research Center (CNRC) in Houston, Texas, CNRC professors of pediatrics Kendal Hirschi and Steven Abrams boosted calcium levels by inducing carrots to express increased levels of the gene sCAX1, which enables the transport of calcium across plant cell membranes.

To determine the bioavailability of the calcium in the modified carrots, 30 volunteers—15 females and 15 males of various ethnic backgrounds and in their early to late 20s—ate single meals containing regular or modified carrots, which were labelled with a stable isotope of calcium.

After two weeks, the researchers found that the calcium intake of volunteers who consumed the modified carrots increased by 41 percent, compared to those who ate regular carrots.

Read more about this research in the November/December 2008 issue of Agricultural Research magazine.

CNRC is operated by Baylor College of Medicine in cooperation with Texas Children's Hospital and ARS, a scientific research agency of the U.S. Department of Agriculture.