Kukoamines-Phytonutrient Compounds in Potatoes

UK scientists at the Institute for Food Research have identified blood pressure-lowering compounds called kukoamines in potatoes. Previously only found in Lycium chinense, an exotic herbal plant whose bark is used to make an infusion in Chinese herbal medicine, kukoamines were found in potatoes using a new type of research called metabolomics.

Until now, when analyzing a plant’s composition, scientists had to know what they were seeking and could typically look for 30 or so known compounds. Now, metabolomic techniques enable researchers to find the unexpected by analyzing the 100s or even 1000s of small molecules produced by an organism.

“Potatoes have been cultivated for thousands of years, and we thought traditional crops were pretty well understood,” said IFR food scientist Dr Fred Mellon, “but this surprise finding shows that even the most familiar of foods might conceal a hoard of health-promoting chemicals.” Another good reason to center your diet around the World’s Healthiest Foods!

In addition to potatoes, researchers looked at tomatoes since they belong to the same plant family-Solanaceae-as Lycium chinense. Metabolomic assays also detected kukoamine compounds in tomatoes. The IFR scientists found higher levels of kukoamines and related compounds than some of the other compounds in potatoes that have a long history of scientific investigation. However, because they were previously only noted in Lycium chinense, kukoamines have been little studied. Researchers are now determinining their stability during cooking and dose response (how much of these compounds are needed to impact health).