Scientists in the UK have developed a genetically modified plant that produces the healthy fats found in oily fish.

A type of cress was altered so that it contained high levels of polyunsaturated fats known as omega-3 and omega-6 fatty acids, which are believed to help prevent heart disease.

Baoxiu Oi and Colin Lazarus, of Bristol University, developed the plant as an alternative source of the fats, reported the Guardian. Lazarus said the next step would be to modify leafy salad vegetables in the same way.

Potential benefits of such a development include taking pressure of depleted fish stocks and providing a source of such fats for those who do not eat fish. Although oily fish and chicken are the main sources of omega-3 and omega-6 fatty acids, they are also found in other foods, such as walnuts and olive oil, but in much smaller amounts.

“The problem is that the people most likely to benefit from eating these plants are the most unlikely to go near them because they are genetically modified,” Lazarus was quoted by the Guardian as saying.