Tomatoes’ Powerful Healing Capabilities

This review article looks at recent research done on the role of tomato products in reducing risk of disease. Newer hypotheses look beyond the antioxidant properties of the tomato and the protection it offers against various cancers, to its possible anti-inflammatory and antithrombotic properties. Researchers extensively reviewed various articles focusing on the health benefits of consuming tomatoes. According to the researchers, “emerging research underscores the relationship between consuming tomatoes and tomato products with reduced risk of some cancers, heart disease, ultraviolet light-induced skin damage, osteoporosis and other conditions.”

Tomatoes are a widely consumed vegetable in the American diet. They are easily available, inexpensive and are flexible for use in cuisines of diverse cultures. Both adults and children generally like tomatoes.  Through intense interest in the health benefits of tomatoes, it is possible that a similar interest in other vegetables may result. Tomatoes are a rich source of lycopene, a very potent antioxidant. Antioxidants immensely help in reducing the risk of cancer and coronary artery disease. In the present review, researchers looked at research papers published on the antioxidant capacity of whole tomatoes and tomato products, as opposed to lycopene, and their utility in preventing cardiovascular diseases and cancers. In addition, they investigated whether processing causes an increase in the nutritional value of tomatoes. The review also looked at articles on the potassium content of tomatoes.

As lycopene is the major antioxidant present in the tomatoes, researchers retrieved all the articles pertaining to the health benefits of consuming lycopene, raw tomatoes and canned tomato products. They compiled articles of 178 original research studies that were conducted to examine the relationship between consumption of tomato and risk of cancer. Similarly, articles on the relationship with cardiovascular disease were also studied. There were a few articles on the role of tomato in preventing skin diseases, osteoporosis and various degenerative diseases that were analyzed. Finally, articles on the potassium content of tomatoes were reviewed.

* Supplementation of lycopene reduces the risk of developing coronary heart disease. Out of three studies, two had concluded that lycopene is capable of reducing blood pressure. Some studies had shown that tomato extracts had anti-platelet activity, which prevents clotting of blood within body.
* Although no study showed convincingly that tomatoes prevent cancer, cancers of breast, large intestine and stomach were less frequent in those who consumed tomato/lycopene. The protective effect was more associated with intake of tomatoes, as opposed to intake of dietary lycopene.
* Some of the studies had opined that regular intake of tomato protects the skin from ultraviolet light-induced damage. It was also observed that tomato decreases the risk of degenerative diseases such as Parkinson’s disease.
* Tomatoes are a rich source of potassium. Processed tomato products also have more bioavailable lycopene because of heat, processing techniques used and the use of oil or fat.

The U.S. Department of Agriculture recommends five servings of vegetables everyday. However, only about 10 percent of adults consume the recommended amount. Tomatoes constitute about 22 percent of the daily consumption of vegetables by an American. Researchers feel that by promoting consumption of tomatoes, the consumption of other vegetables can also be increased. By increasing the consumption of tomatoes, the overall incidence of cancer and coronary heart disease in the community can be decreased. The antioxidant capacity of tomato can reduce oxidative damage to neurons in the brain, thereby decreasing the occurrence of degenerative diseases of brain such as Alzheimer’s disease, vascular dementia and Parkinson’s disease.

For More Information:
Tomato Consumption and Health: Emerging Benefits
Publication Journal: American Journal of Lifestyle Medicine, November 2010
By Britt Burton Freeman PhD; Kristin Reimers PhD; Illinois Institute of Technology, Summit-Agro, Illinois

*FYI Living Lab Reports Are Summaries of the Original Research.


Tomatoes’ Powerful Healing Capabilities

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