Tomatoes are chock full of essential nutrients we need, plus antioxidants like lycopene and vitamin C that help tamp down inflammation and reduce the risk of cardiovascular disease. Theyâ€™re an essential part of pizza and many other amazing dishes from salsa to shakshuka, and taste great fresh off the vine with a little salt and pepper.
A recent study from The Ohio State University has found another health benefit that lycopene and other nutrients in tomatoes may give to us: lessening the chance of getting skin cancer. Skin cancer, which is the most common of all cancers and kills about 15,000 people a year, is treatable if caught early, and the new study shows it may even be preventable if you get a daily dose of tomato power.
Researchers gave male mice either a diet of tomato powder or a placebo every day for eight months, while exposing them to ultraviolet light. Those who got the 10% diet of the powder showed a 50% reduction in skin cancer tumor development over the period of the study compared to those who didnâ€™t get the powder. Though not statistically different, those fed the powder from tangerine tomatoes, which have a higher amount of bioavailable lycopene, did show less tumor growth than all groups tested.
â€śLycopene, the primary carotenoid in tomatoes, has been shown to be the most effective antioxidant of these pigments,â€ť said study co-author Jessica Cooperstone, research scientist in the department of food science and technology in the College of Food, Agricultural, and Environmental Sciences at Ohio State. â€śHowever, when comparing lycopene administered from a whole food [tomato] or a synthesized supplement, tomatoes appear more effective in preventing redness after UV exposure, suggesting other compounds in tomatoes may also be at play.â€ť
She continued: â€śFoods are not drugs, but they can possibly, over the lifetime of consumption, alter the development of certain diseases.â€ť