Tomatoes Key Against Cance
By Roni Rabin
November 5, 2003
To reduce the risk of prostate cancer, it may take the whole tomato.
on rats suggests eating whole tomatoes can reduce prostate
cancer deaths more effectively than taking supplements of lycopene, a
chemical found in tomatoes that has been associated with lower prostate
Several earlier studies in humans had found a link
between high lycopene blood levels and a lower risk of prostate cancer,
but it was not clear whether lycopene was the effective agent or
whether it simply signified tomato consumption.
research suggests lycopene acts in concert with other nutrients in the
tomato, creating a synergistic effect, said study author John W.
Erdman, a professor of food science and human nutrition at University
of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign. Lycopene is a
carotenoid, a type of
antioxidant that plays a role in disease resistance and includes
beta-carotene, found in carrots and dark leafy greens like kale.
"Lycopene clearly contributes to lower risk, but we never believed it
was a magic bullet," Erdman said. "There are a number of other good
things in tomatoes," including other carotenoids and vitamins C and E,
to mention just a few.
suggests that taking
lycopene as a dietary supplement is not as effective as eating whole
tomatoes," he said, encouraging the consumption of tomato products in
pasta, salad, juice, even pizza.
The study, co-authored by Dr.
Steven K. Clinton, professor of hematology and oncology and nutrition
at Ohio State University in Columbus, was published in the current
issue of the Journal of the National Cancer Institute, a peer-reviewed
It is one of a number of studies that have raised
questions about whether the benefits of nutrients like antioxidants can
Jeffrey Blumberg, a researcher at Tufts
University's The Gerald J. and Dorothy R. Friedman School of Nutrition
Science and Policy and a self-described "advocate of rational diet
supplementation," said the question of food versus supplements doesn't
necessarily have an either-or answer.
"No one ever suggested
supplements are a substitute for eating whole food. They are what they
say they are - supplements to a diet," he said. It is easier to absorb
lycopene when tomatoes are pureed or sauteed, he said.
of Erdman's 14-month study, researchers treated 194 rats with a
carcinogen to induce prostate cancer, and then assigned them to a diet
of either whole tomato powder, pure lycopene or a control group.
The rats that
consumed the tomato powder had a 26 percent lower risk of
prostate cancer death than the control rats, researchers found. While
80 percent of the control group died of prostate cancer, 72 percent of
those on lycopene died, and only 62 percent of rats on tomato powder
Half of each
group had a diet of 80 percent of the
average daily food intake, which also was found to lower the risk of
developing prostate cancer.
Copyright © 2003, Newsday, Inc.