Underutilized fruit and vegetables for human health

J.A. Heyes
An epidemic of obesity and related diseases (type II diabetes, cardiovascular diseases) is prevalent in the western world. The complex of interrelated inflammatory disorders is called the “metabolic syndrome” and is associated with biomarkers such as high blood sugar and lipids and low HDL cholesterol. The World Health Organization has noted the protective effects of a diet rich in fruits and vegetables to reduce the risk of cardiovascular disease. Despite this awareness, there is a global under-consumption of fruit and vegetables. Countries that export fruits and vegetables are considering the possibility of increasing their income, as they identify particular health benefits associated with particular fruits and vegetables. There is a tremendous diversity of fruits and vegetables in tropical countries; but in general, these products are under-researched, do not store well and do not enter global supply chains in large quantities: the generic term is “underutilized fruits and vegetables”. Tropical countries should place high value on well-preserved collections of underutilized fruit and vegetable genetic material; they also ought to conduct specific research to identify the links between the metabolome of particular varieties of fruit or vegetables and particular health outcomes. This must be accompanied by research to develop appropriate storage technologies to support international trade. Tools are now available to make rapid progress using metabolomics and health-related bioassays. To benefit from this work, it is essential to have internationally recognized “property rights” over local plant varieties in the form of plant breeders' rights, and get the capacity to defend these rights once valuable varieties are identified. It should be stressed that this is a very risky and costly strategy. There is a greater urgency to focus on increasing the production and consumption of fruit and vegetables in developing countries; this imparts an immediate public health benefit.
Heyes, J.A. (2020). Underutilized fruit and vegetables for human health. Acta Hortic. 1267, 147-152
DOI: 10.17660/ActaHortic.2020.1267.23
bioassay, diet, epidemiology, metabolic syndrome

Acta Horticulturae