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Studies show tomatoes can beat skin cancer, male infertility, others

By Chukwuma Muanya, Assistant Editor
10 November 2016   |   3:33 am
More researchers are confirming that eating plenty of tomatoes could stave off wrinkles - and even skin cancer.


Fruit replete with lycopene, protects against harmful ultra violet radiation 

Can eating lots tomatoes provide the elusive cure for wrinkles, skin and prostate cancer, hypertension and male infertility?

More researchers are confirming that eating plenty of tomatoes could stave off wrinkles – and even skin cancer.

Scientists say the fruit is rich in an antioxidant called lycopene that helps shield the body from harmful Ultra Violet (UV) radiation that is associated with skin cancer.

A new study published in the British Journal of Dermatology suggests that tomatoes are not substitutes for sunscreen but offers another important line of defence.

The German researchers said it could lead to people taking supplements containing the chemical for health – or cosmetic – purposes.

They also found another pigment known as lutein – abundant in spinach and kale – achieved similar results.

Conventional sunscreens are designed to block out ultraviolet light – UVA and UVB – the rays that damage and burn the skin. However, these products do not block out infrared rays.

These rays, which were discovered in 1800, transmit heat, raise skin temperature and are responsible for the warmth you feel when sitting in the sun.

Infrared rays make up to half of the sun’s energy (UVA and UVB combined make up between five per cent and seven per cent) and one type in particular, infrared A, can penetrate the deepest layers of the skin – deeper than ultraviolet.

Earlier research in animals has suggested infrared A may play a role in skin cancer when combined with exposure to UVB. Infrared A may also contribute to ageing of the skin – scientists suggest it alters some of the biological processes involved in maintaining healthy skin cells, affecting the production of collagen, the protein that acts as scaffolding for the skin.

This could ultimately result in wrinkles, sagging and ageing. The possible link between infrared A and cancer was first noted in the Eighties. However, more recent research at the University of Kiel in Germany found that mice exposed to UVB and infrared A rays together developed faster-growing skin cancer tumours than those exposed to UVB light alone, though those exposed to infrared A alone did not.

An earlier study published in April this year found that a nutrient in a ‘tomato pill’ could supercharge sperm by up to 70 per cent and offer new hope to childless couples. The compound lycopene which gives tomatoes their red colour, is now the focus of a study at Sheffield University, United Kingdom (UK) to measure the boost to male fertility offered by an over-the-counter modified lycopene supplement known to double blood lycopene levels.

The Sheffield team led by Professor Allan Pacey, one of Britain’s leading experts on male infertility, is recruiting 60 healthy male students and university staff aged 18 to 30 to take part in the three-month study.

The study comes as Britain faces an epidemic of childlessness with one in six couples unable to conceive.Half of the problem is believed to be caused by men having poor quality sperm.

The first half of the group will receive twice-daily capsules of the over-the-counter supplement called XY Pro, and the other half will receive identical dummy capsules.

A recently published study by fertility specialists at America’s prestigious Cleveland Clinic in Ohio, showed lycopene can boost sperm quality by 70 per cent.

Another study titled “Phytochemical Analysis of Medicinal Plants Used for the Management of Hypertension by Esan people of Edo State, Nigeria” and published in Ethnobotanical Leaflets by researchers from Ambrose Alli University, Ekpoma, Edo State, identified tomato as one of the 14 endemic plant species distributed in 12 taxonomic families commonly used to manage hypertension.

According to the study, tomato extract contains carotenoids, such as lycopene, betacarotene, and vitamin E, which are known as effective antioxidants, to inactivate free radicals and to slow the progress of atherosclerosis. A study showed that extract of tomato (Lyc-O-Mato) modestly reduces Blood Pressure (BP) in patients with mild, untreated hypertension.

A significant correlation has been observed between systolic BP and lycopene levels. Tomato extract when added to patients treated with low doses of ACE inhibition, calcium channel blockers, or their combination with low-dose diuretics had a clinically significant effect-reduction of BP by more than 10 mmHg systolic and more than 5 mmHg diastolic pressure. No side effects to treatment were recorded and the compliance with treatment was high.

Meanwhile, the German researchers compared the skin of 65 people who were divided into two groups – one given a supplement called TNC (tomato nutrient complex) or a placebo and the other lutein or the dummy treatment.

At the beginning and end of each 12-week treatment phase their skin was exposed to two types of ultraviolet (UV) light, UVA1 and UVA/B in a process known as irradiation – with biopsies taken 24 hours later.

These showed those who received no lycopene or lutein had increased expression of certain ‘indicator genes’ linked to wrinkly skin and inflammation – two common side effects of sun damage.

In contrast, both treatments significantly reduced the expression of these genes.

The findings follow a study in 2012, which concluded women who ate a diet rich in tomatoes had increased skin protection, reduced redness and less Deoxy ribonucleic Acid (DNA) damage from ultraviolet rays.

Also, another study published in 2014 found that just ten helpings of tomatoes a week could help men reduce the risk of prostate cancer by almost a fifth.

Researchers think that protection against the illness comes from a key chemical inside the fruit known as lycopene. Tomato-based pasta sauce, tomato juice and even baked beans and the tomato puree topping on pizza were all found to have a beneficial effect.

Scientists say men who doubled their intake of fruit and vegetables to the recommended five portions a day reduced their risk by nearly a quarter.

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