Canadian researchers from the University of Toronto have reviewed the evidence and concluded that the humble tomato may be the key to protecting yourself against cancer.
They report that the key ingredient in tomatoes is and natural chemical called lycopene. Lycopene is a pigment that gives the fruit its red glow, and it is also one of the most potent anti-oxidants known. Oxidative damage to cells is thought to be an important mechanism behind several chronic diseases, including cancer and heart disease.
In their review of existing literature, the evidence is that a diet rich in tomatoes is beneficial to health. In one large U.S. study conducted in an elderly population, those with a high intake of tomato products in their diet were likely to live longer than those who did not. In another long-term study among U.S. health professionals, the incidence of prostate cancer was 35 per cent lower in those who consumed 10 or more servings of tomatoes weekly. Other research found similar reductions in levels of breast cancer and digestive tract cancers among tomato-lovers. In total, the U of T researchers found 35 large-scale studies that demonstrated that when tomato intake went up, the incidence of cancer went down.
Products that contain high levels of lycopene include tomato paste, tomato sauce, spaghetti sauce, chili sauce, pizza and tomato soup.
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