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   Making Spinach With Low Oxalate Levels
by Sharon Durham, USDA AgResearch Magazine
Posted: Tuesday, January 3, 2017 at 8:59AM EST

Spinach is an economically important vegetable crop worldwide. It is considered healthful in the human diet due to its high concentration of nutrients, such as beta carotene (pro vitamin A), lutein, folate, vitamin C, calcium, iron, phosphorus, and potassium.

However, spinach also contains higher concentrations of oxalic acid than most crops. Oxalic acid, or “oxalate,” is a naturally occurring plant chemical. The role of oxalic acid is unclear, but it is usually thought to be a useless end product of carbohydrate metabolism. A major negative impact of oxalate in the diet is its possible link to kidney stone formation. Foods such as beets, rhubarb, strawberries, nuts, chocolate, tea, wheat bran, and almost all dry beans are known to increase oxalate in the urine and may contribute to kidney stone formation. In addition, oxalate can react with calcium, iron, and other minerals to form crystals that inhibit mineral absorption.

Scientists with the Agricultural Research Service’s (ARS) Crop Improvement and Protection Research Unit in Salinas, California, and the University of Arkansas conducted a study to find genetic components related to oxalate concentrations in spinach. By analyzing the genetic code of over 300 spinach varieties, ARS geneticist Beiquan Mou and his university colleagues identified 6 DNA markers linked to genes that contribute to oxalate concentration. These markers may be useful for breeders to select germplasm for reduced oxalate concentrations in spinach through marker-assisted selection.

To read the rest of the story, please go to: USDA AgResearch Magazine

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