Crop Selection

Tomatoes & Health

Tomatoes, Lycopene & Human Health : Preventing Chronic Diseases

Edited by Venket Rao

This groundbreaking book is available for distribution from the beginning of January 2007 and is anticipated to be used as the scientific foundation which will underlie a massive international, public health, education programme based around the collected opinion within its pages.

This much anticipated and timely publication is already supported by: WPTC, CLFP, CTGA, OPVG and AMITOM and recognized by the EU commission project on lycopene and cardiovascular disease, LYCOCARD. (www.lycocard.com).

This book provides an essential foundation of scientific authority which will be the first point of reference for health information based promotion. Edited by one of the most respected scientists in this field of research, Dr. A. Venket Rao, it is the first unbranded, fully independent scientific reference book on tomato health effects ever to be published and is written by 28 internationally recognized scientists, each a specialist with their chosen field supported by an enormous and compelling body of evidence. Dr Rao was delighted to co present the book with Caledonian Science Press CEO, David Cameron, saying “This is the result of the collective efforts of many of the finest researchers in this area today and represents a clear picture of the current state of the art. These are their words, their work, presented independently”

The book is seen as a highly valued resource of essential new information for health professionals including dieticians, nutritionists, urologists, oncologists, general family doctors, hospital and medical centre management, senior nursing staff, food safety agencies, patient care organisations and for the food industry itself.

This latest scientific knowledge may easily propel the tomato and more importantly, processed tomato products, from their currently undervalued position into the category of potent health foods with recognizable and scientifically demonstrated protective and curative properties. Other food industries such as olive oil and blueberry have done this to their greater advantage.

Much of the focus in the text is on tomatoes and especially processed tomato products, which contain lycopene and many other nutritious compounds. Recent research suggests that some of these compounds work synergistically to enhance their overall protective effect.

What are antioxidants?

Antioxidants are molecules that protect cells against the potentially harmful effects of oxidation, specially those caused by oxygen-derived free radicals. Antioxidants found in food are molecules that allow living organisms to resist oxidative stress more effectively.

Why are antioxidants important?

Free radicals are a normal response of the human body to infection. At high concentrations, free radicals can severely damage the cell walls, and cause DNA alterations. Antioxidants donate electrons to quench and neutralise free radical oxygen molecules and therefore avoid cell damage and DNA alterations that can lead to cancer cells and to degenerative diseases.The majority of the antioxidants we need come from our diet as human metabolism is unable to produce them in the quantity and quality needed.

Which are the antioxidants in tomatoes?

Tomatoes contain a variety of antioxidants such as the two carotenoids lycopene and b-carotene, vitamins C and E, polyphenolics such as kaempferol and quercitin. Lycopene is the most abundant one in red tomatoes.

What is Lycopene?

Lycopene is a powerfull antioxidant. It makes tomatoes red. It is soluble in oils and insoluble in water. Lycopene is easily absorbed by the organism and is naturally present in human plasma and tissues in higher concentrations than the other carotenoids.

Can lycopene only be found in tomatoes?

In our diet, 95% of lycopene intake comes from tomatoes and tomato products. It can also be found in watermelon, pink grapefruit, papaya, and rosehip.

What Role do tomatoes play in the prevention of diseases?

The number of scientific studies and the coherence of the results justify the sentence that eating tomatoes every day decreases the risk of cancers in the upper digestive and respiratory tracts, of the stomach and lungs.

Most studies do not make the distinction between raw and processed tomatoes. A serious study shows that a lower risk of prostate cancer is linked to the consumption of processed tomatoes.

Further studies will show that lycopene has a protective effect, in synergy with other tomato constituents, against certain diseases of the heart, lungs and eyes, as well as against ageing.

It is a proven fact that tomatoes contribute to the intake of antioxidants, vitamins, fibre,and other components that play a major role in public health.

Can the same benefits be obtained from lycopene on its own?

Lycopene is a powerful antioxidant. No doubt, antioxidants also interact with other substances and molecules, producing a synergistic effect that protects human metabolism. So, processed tomatoes are likely to offer more protection than lycopene on its own.

What affects the content of antioxidants in the raw tomatoes for processing?

Lycopene and other antioxidants are present in the red, ripe, sound fruit. Weather, soil, varieties, and agricultural practices, all, have an effect on the content of antioxidants in the fruit. The biosynthesis of carotenoids is well documented.

What are the effects of processing?

Processing makes lycopene and other components more bioavailable by breaking up the food matrix. Moreover, like other oil soluble substances, lycopene is more readily available when oil is added to the product. A study shows that lycopene is absorbed 2,5 times better from tomato paste than from fresh tomatoes.

Conclusions

It is highly likely that lycopene is one of the components of the protective actions of fruits and vegetables. These are part of the healthy Mediterranean Diet and tomatoes are a significant ingredient of this gastronomical culture.

It is only very recently that lycopene was included in the food charts, having been isolated from other carotenoids in blood and human tissues thanks biochemical analysis. This explains why cientific results related to lycopene are so new.

It can however be said that tomatoes contain a balanced quantity of a number of nutritional and non-nutritional elements that are necessary and good for human health.

Other valuable substances like lutein, fibres, tannins, glyco-alkaloids, chlorogenic and coumaric acid, flavonoids and vitamins, are present in the tomatoes and have a proven beneficial effects on human metabolism. The intake of raw or cooked, processed tomatoes (sauces, juice, ketchup, lasagnas, pizzas, etc contributes to the supply of these components in ways that are significant in terms of public health.

Copies of this book are available on request to the Ontario Processing Vegetable Growers.