A new study led by Chen-Yu Zhang, of Nanjing University, found that fragments of plant genetic material survive digestion and wind up swimming in the bloodstreams of humans and cows.
Those tiny strands of RNA that somehow make it through the toxic acids and enzymes in the gut come from rice and the plant family that includes broccoli, brussels sprouts, cauliflower and cabbage.
Zhang found that they can muffle or amplify human gene expression in various ways.
The discovery could lead to ways of designing plants that act as medicine or even change our own genetic structure for the better.
Zhang’s research suggests that plants have influenced human evolution and wellbeing for as long as people have eaten them.
Photo: Skip Carter