Scientists with the U.S. Department of Agriculture have used traditional breeding techniques to create yellow potatoes with carotenoid levels two to three times higher than those found in the Yukon Gold variety.

Plant geneticist Kathy Haynes and nutritionist Beverly Clevidence recently published their findings in the Journal of the American Society for Horticultural Science.

Working at the USDA’s Agricultural Research Service center in Beltsville, Md., the two researchers used wild potatoes with “intense yellow flesh” as the basis for their work. The wild variety had 23 times more carotenoids than white-fleshed potatoes.

Dietary carotenoids are thought to provide health benefits in decreasing the risk of disease — particularly certain cancers and eye disease, according to the National Institutes of Health.

In earlier work, Haynes and colleagues introduced the Peter Wilcox potato variety in 2007. It has purple skin and yellow flesh and has more than 15% more carotenoids than Yukon Gold potatoes.

The USDA reports several carotenoids are involved in the latest variety, including neoxanthin, antheraxanthin, violaxanthin, lutein and zeaxanthin. Among these, lutein and zeaxanthin are of interest for eye health, appearing to protect against age-related macular degeneration and perhaps against cataract formation, according to the USDA.