Cooked Tomato Products can Lower The Risk of Prostate Cancer

Men who eat a daily helping of cooked tomatoes may lower their risk of prostate cancer.

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Frequent consumption of tomato products may be associated with a reduced risk of prostate cancer, concludes a study in the March 6 issue of the Journal of the National Cancer Institute.

Mounting evidence over the past decade suggests that the consumption of fresh and processed tomato products is associated with reduced risk of prostate cancer. The emerging hypothesis is that lycopene, the primary red carotenoid in tomatoes, may be the principle phytochemical responsible for this reduction in risk.

The researchers found that the consumption of tomato sauce was associated with a reduced risk of prostate cancer among men of Southern European descent (who typically have tomato-rich diets), and among men of Caucasian ancestry. The authors conclude that frequent consumption of tomato products is associated with a reduced risk of prostate cancer. They note, however, that it remains to be seen whether lycopene is the key compound in reducing prostate cancer risk.

In a study of more than 40,000 health professionals, Harvard investigators found that men who ate more than 10 servings of tomato-based foods daily (like cooked tomatoes and tomato sauce) had a 35 percent lower risk of developing prostate cancer than those who ate the least amount of these foods. The benefits of tomatoes were more pronounced in men with advanced stages of prostate cancer.

The potent healing compound found in tomatoes is lycopene

Tomatoes are a rich source of lycopene, a chemical in some fruits and vegetables which thirty-five scientific studies have found to lower prostate cancer risk.

Lycopene is present in all red fruits and vegetables, but its concentrations are highest in tomatoes and it becomes more readily available and biologically active when it comes from processed tomatoes with a small amount of cooking oil added.

In men who have low lycopene levels, prostate cancer is likely to be especially aggressive.

Scientists have discovered the nutrient, lycopene, which is found in cooked tomatoes, can slow the growth and even kill the cancer cells. Dr Mridula Chopra and colleagues at the University of Portsmouth found that lycopene, which gives tomatoes their red color, intercepts the cancer’s ability to make the connections it needs to attach to a healthy blood supply.

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The researchers, from the university’s School of Pharmacy and Biomedical Sciences, are now calling for tests to check if the same reaction occurs in the human body.

Dr Mridula Chopra and colleagues at the University of Portsmouth tested the effect of the nutrient lycopene on the simple mechanism through which cancer cells hijack a body’s healthy blood supply to grow and spread.

Previous research has suggested that frequent consumption of tomato products or lycopene, an antioxidant in tomato sauce, may be associated with a lower risk of prostate cancer. To confirm these findings, Edward Giovannucci, M.D., Sc.D., and colleagues from Brigham and Women’s Hospital and the Harvard School of Public Health analyzed tomato-product-consumption patterns and prostate cancer cases among roughly 47,400 men enrolled in the Health Professionals Follow-Up Study.

They found that lycopene, which is what gives tomatoes their red color, intercepts cancer’s ability to make the connections it needs to attach to a healthy blood supply.

Director of the research Dr Chopra said: ”This simple chemical reaction was shown to occur at lycopene concentrations that can easily be achieved by eating processed tomatoes.”

Previous research has suggested that frequent consumption of tomato products or lycopene, an antioxidant in tomato sauce, may be associated with a lower risk of prostate cancer. To confirm these findings, Edward Giovannucci, M.D., Sc.D., and colleagues from Brigham and Women’s Hospital and the Harvard School of Public Health analyzed tomato-product-consumption patterns and prostate cancer cases among roughly 47,400 men enrolled in the Health Professionals Follow-Up Study.

Studies have been undertaken that show processed tomato products are a greater source of lycopene than fresh tomatoes.

It appears that the process of heating the tomato causes the destruction of the cells, which in turn liberates the carotenoid and enables it to dissolve in fats. This may assist the body to more readily absorb the lycopene.

Most fruits and vegetables can be eaten uncooked to get full nutritional value. Tomatoes are probably an exception. More lycopene is released from a cooked tomato. Lycopene is nearly four times more readily available to the body from tomato paste than from fresh tomatoes.

This could be the reason why the decreased cancer risk was seen with tomato sauce and other tomato-based products, rather than raw tomatoes. In addition, lycopene is best absorbed through the intestine when eaten with fat.

Since lycopene is fat-soluble, it is better to prepare the tomatoes with a small amount of vegetable oil. Lycopene is also found in red grapefruit and watermelon, and in smaller quantities in crab and lobster.

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