What Makes Orange Corn that Bright Color?
The orange color of Professor Torbert’s corn comes from natural selection for higher concentrations of antioxidant pigments called carotenoids. Carotenoids are found throughout nature and are responsible for giving many fruits and vegetables their yellow, orange or red color. Examples of carotenoid-rich foods include carrots, tomatoes, sweet potatoes, squash, and melons. Yellow corn also gets its color from carotenoids, but the concentrations are only high enough to produce a pale-yellow hue compared to the deep color found in Professor Torbert’s Orange Corn.
Is Orange Corn Non-GMO?
YES! Orange corn is absolutely, 100% non-GMO. While Professor Torbert is a geneticist by training, he used his expertise not to modify, but rather, to understand how the genes that already exist in corn affect the production of carotenoids in the kernel. He then used that knowledge to naturally select new varieties that produce higher levels of carotenoids.
Why do Carotenoids Exist?
While many plants use carotenoids to give their fruits and flowers bright colors in order to attract insects and animals, carotenoids actually serve an even more critical function. Carotenoids play an essential role in photosynthesis, the process by which plants produce energy in the form of sugar. During photosynthesis, chlorophyll can become overexcited and throw off free radical electrons, which left to their own devices, would bounce around damaging the cellular structure of the plants. This is where carotenoids come in; as antioxidants, they are able to absorb these free radicals, effectively protecting the plant and preserving its ability to keep on photosynthesizing.
Does Orange Corn Provide Vitamin A?
It depends on where you are. Professor Torbert originally developed his Orange Corn as part of an effort to help alleviate vitamin A deficiencies in Sub-Saharan Africa. So, the varieties of Orange Corn grown in Africa are selected for higher levels of carotenoids that can be converted into vitamin A by the human body (called carotenes or provitamin A carotenoids). Since vitamin A deficiencies are rare in the United States, the Professor Torbert’s Orange Corn available in the U.S. is selected for increased levels of other carotenoids critical for helping maintain healthy eye function as we age, a much greater concern for most American’s.
Why is it Important to Eat Carotenoid-rich Foods?
Similar to how carotenoids protect the chlorophyll in plants during photosynthesis, our body deposits two specific carotenoids (lutein and zeaxanthin) in the central region of the eye (called the macula), where they help protect the eye from damaging UV rays and free radicals. A large body of scientific work has indicated that eating enough of these antioxidant carotenoids can significantly reduce one’s risk of developing Age-Related Macular Degeneration (AMD), the leading cause of vision loss in the United States. Unfortunately, the levels most American’s consume are far below the amount researchers found necessary to provide this protective effect (1-2mg/day vs 6-12mg /day). The human body is unable to produce carotenoids itself, which means they must be obtained through foods. This is why it is important to eat a diverse diet rich in foods that provide carotenoids, such as brightly colored fruits, green leafy vegetables, and now, Orange Corn!