Eating tomato products has been tied to a reduced risk of prostate cancer. Now, findings from an animal study suggest that to achieve this effect the whole tomato must be eaten.
Several reports have shown a decreased risk of prostate cancer in men with high levels of lycopene, a chemical found in tomatoes. The current findings indicate, however, that simply taking lycopene pills does not protect against the cancer. In terms of preventing prostate cancer, that means that taking a lycopene pill is not going to make up for a bad diet.
The new findings are based on a study of male rats treated with chemicals to induce prostate cancer. The animals were given standard diets that contained tomato powder or lycopene, or no added ingredients. Rats fed tomato powder were much less likely to die from prostate cancer than animals that received a standard diet. In contrast, lycopene-containing diets did not protect against prostate cancer.
In addition, after several weeks of unlimited food access, the animals were selected to either continue with unlimited access or to receive a 20 percent dietary restriction.
Lycopene is found in tomatoes and it's especially abundant in heat processed tomato products such as tomato sauce and tomato juice.
Dietary restriction also had a beneficial effect on cancer outcomes, the authors found. Rats fed restricted diets experienced significantly longer cancer-free survival than animals with unlimited food access.
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