Engineering Healthier Animal Products
The animal Article of the month for April is entitled: ‘The use of genetic engineering techniques to improve the lipid composition in meat, milk and fish products: a review’
The animal paper of the month for April discusses the possibility of the use of genetic engineering techniques to improve of health-promoting value of animal-origin products.
For modern communities in developed countries, food not only fulfils nutritional requirements, but also serves as a very important tool to influence the status of human health. This applies equally to foods of animal origin, which hold a significant position in global food production and consumption and are important constituents of the human diet.
One of the main ways to increase the health-promoting value of animal-origin foods is to enrich them with bioactive components that may beneficially affect human metabolism and health. The main dietary source of long-chain n-3 polyunsaturated fatty acids (n-3 LCPUFAs) for humans is fish. However, in most western communities, daily intake of fish, and consequently of n-3 PUFAs, is considerably below recommended levels, simultaneously causing an imbalanced n-6/n-3 PUFA ratio. Therefore, the most important strategy for improving the health-promoting value of animal-origin foods is to modify the composition of food lipids by increasing their content of n-3 LCPUFAs. It is widely known that these fatty acids exert many positive health-related influences, e.g. anti-obesity, anti-atherogenic, anti-carcinogenic, and immunomodulatory effects, as well as being important in many metabolic processes, including proper functioning of the immunological and nervous systems. Products enriched with n-3 LCPUFAs are a good example of functional food, i.e. food which may have, in addition to nutritional value as traditionally understood, a beneficial influence on the metabolism and health of consumers.
The traditional method of enriching animal-origin products with n-3 LCPUFAs is to manipulate the composition of an animal diet, i.e. through the incorporation of n-3 PUFA sources, mainly fish oil and other marine products. However, this method is limited by the huge demand for marine products and the risk of their contamination with heavy metals.
Rapid progress in the development of genetic engineering techniques, for example transgenesis, has enabled a generation of genetically modified animals. Our paper reviews the results of studies in which genetic engineering techniques were used to create animal-origin products modified to contain health-promoting lipids, i.e. products enriched with n-3 LCPUFAs. To date genetically modified food-producing animals, engineered using recombinant DNA technology, have remained almost exclusively at the laboratory stage.
Results of such studies have demonstrated that the transgenesis of pigs, cows, goats and fish can be used as efficient method of producing healthy animal-origin food of high dietetic value. However, due to high costs and certain technical difficulties, as well as the lower public acceptance of transgenesis (for increase dietetic value of animal-origin products rather than modifications used strictly for medical purposes), the introduction of this technology to commercial animal production and markets seems a distant prospect.
Authors: S. Świątkiewicz, M. Świątkiewicz, A. Arczewska-Włosek and D. Józefiak
The animal Article of the Month is selected by the Editor-in-Chief and is freely available for one month