If you’re looking to stack your odds against cancer, then eat plenty of tomato products. The healthy habit of eating tomato products has been linked with reduced risks of several types of cancers. The anti-cancer properties in tomatoes seem to be related to their antioxidant levels, particularly from their lycopene, beta-carotene, vitamin C, and phenols. Yet, research reveals that it’s all about the synergistic effects of lycopene and other nutrients in the tomato working together to offer cancer protection.
In a recent review of the literature on tomato products and cancer risk conducted by Britt Burton-Freeman, Ph.D., Director, National Center for Food Safety & Technology, Illinois Institute of Technology, 178 original research articles were compiled reporting findings in humans on the relationship between lycopene, tomatoes and tomato-based products and cancer risk. Reports on 13 cancer types were identified, of which breast, colorectal, gastric/upper gastrointestinal, and prostate cancer had the most original research published in humans. For breast, colorectal and gastric cancers, the research supported a potentially protective relationship between tomato products and lycopene intake and cancer risk.
One particularly promising area of cancer research focuses on tomato products and prostate cancer protection. Researchers from Montreal conducted a meta-analysis that included 11 case-control studies and 10 cohort studies or nested case-control studies on the use of tomato, tomato products, or lycopene. Compared with nonfrequent users of tomato products, consumers of high amounts of raw tomatoes had an 11 percent reduced risk of prostate cancer, and those with a high intake of cooked tomato products experienced a 19 percent reduced risk. In fact, tomato products show such promise in battling prostate cancer that a research team led by John Erdman, PhD of the University of Illinois recently received a $400,000 grant from the National Institutes of Health to trace how tomato carotenoids help to reduce risk of prostate cancer in humans. This study will help scientists better understand how tomato carotenoids are absorbed and metabolized in the body in order to protect against prostate cancer.
It looks like a picture perfect cancer-protective diet is splashed in the vibrant red shades of tomato products. Paint your plate red every day; toss your pasta with tomato sauce, top your taco with salsa, and ladle up a hearty tomato soup. Start eating to fight cancer.