2016. PhD Thesis Maaria Kortesniemi. Food Chemistry and Food Development Department of Biochemistry. Turku Finland. Sea buckthorn
One of the great attributes of PhD theses, if done well, is the extensive review of published literature. Sometimes theses can be challenging to read, but this thesis is an exception. Dr. Kortesniemi has a great discussion of factors affecting the metabolome (the set of compounds present as products of metabolic events). The chart below shows the factors that could impact the quality of what we eat.
The genotype provides the framework for determining the metabolome, but many factors combine to impact what we eat. For instance, “northern latitude in Finland lowered the content of carotene in carrot and parsley and intensified the colours in strawberry, tomato, [beets], spinach and lettuce. Also, carrot, beets, [rutabaga] and strawberries exhibited higher content of sugar and dry matter in the north (67–69° N) compared to south (60° N)” Scientists trying to define a distinct species or cultivar chemical identity have a giant challenge to reconcile all these components. This particular research on sea buckthorn found a big interaction between genetics and climatic factors. Northern growing environments produced more vitamin C. High altitudes (>200m) correlated with greater levels of malic and ascorbic acid. It is interesting to speculate on the quality of food that eventually ends up on our plates. Even with growing conditions that produce high quality phytochemicals and vitamins, think about how small changes in harvesting, fertilizers, processing, etc. could significantly impact our food quality.