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. They'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 didn’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.
"Lycopene, the primary carotenoid in tomatoes, has been shown to be the most effective antioxidant of these pigments," 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. "However, 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."
She continued: "Foods are not drugs, but they can possibly, over the lifetime of consumption, alter the development of certain diseases."