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  • Author or Editor: Katherine A. Ellingson* x
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Recent medical interest in plant antioxidants in human health has stimulated the interest in functional phytochemicals of fruits and vegetables. Numerous reports link antioxidant capacity of phytochemicals to the reduction of degenerative diseases. As a result, sales of herbal antioxidant supplements have increased tremendously although negative (or no) effects have been documented with certain supplements. There are many interactive reactions among phytochemicals. At this point, our understanding of interactions among phytochemicals is limited. Therefore, medical professionals are reluctant to prescribe supplements as a mean to boost antioxidants, but they agree that consumption of fresh fruits and vegetables is essential for a healthy life and provides a better alternative than supplements to boost antioxidant uptake. Carotenoids are receiving attention because of their pro-vitamin A activity and antioxidant properties. Two of the widely investigated carotenoids for improvement are lycopene and β-carotene. Genetic composition, cultural practices, environmental conditions, and processing can all affect carotenoid profiles. Light has been shown to affect carotenoids and we are investigating if changing the spectral composition in the growing environment can alter carotenoid levels. Preliminary results show that tomatoes grown under a high red light environment have increased lycopene and overall carotenoid contents. Nutritionally enhanced produce will benefit both growers and consumers.

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