Several studies have been published on the benefits of eating a diet rich in fruits and vegetables, including potential protection against the development of cancer. Cancerous cells can form when healthy cells are damaged. Fruits and vegetables are sources of antioxidants, molecules that inhibit the damage of the body's cells.
Tomatoes, in particular, have been studied for their cancer-fighting potential. Tomatoes contain lycopene, an antioxidant that gives tomatoes their rich red color and shows anti-tumor effects in scientific laboratory and animal studies. However, lycopene works together with the unique blend of vitamins in tomatoes to produce health-protective effects more potent than lycopene supplementation alone. In one animal study, scientists fed one group of rats tomato powder and another group lycopene supplements. The results showed that the rats fed tomato powder had a much lower cancer risk.
Research has indicated that dietary intake of tomato products may protect against several forms of cancer, however, tomatoes shows particular promise in the prevention and treatment of lung andprostate cancer. In addition, tomatoes also appear to have benefits for people at risk of developing asbestos-related cancers like mesothelioma, oral cancer and stomach cancer.
Tomatoes and Lung Cancer
Because the lungs are exposed to high levels of oxygen and other pollutants, they are more susceptible to oxidative cell damage. To combat this process, lungs can store antioxidants in tissue cells and in the lining of the lungs. One study showed that lycopene was a predominant antioxidant used by the lungs to protect against lung cell damage.
While research suggests that eating tomatoes may help preventcancer, a diet rich in tomatoes and tomato products may also inhibit tumors in patients with cancer. One study showed that patients with lung cancer who ate more tomatoes were more likely to survive cancer. Scientists found that whole tomatoes and tomato products were more effective than lycopene supplements.
Tomatoes and Prostate Cancer
Some of the more recent breakthroughs in the study of the benefits of tomato consumption are related to prostate cancer. Scientists at the University of Portsmouth found that lycopene in cooked tomato products may actually inhibit cancer cells from being able to attach to a blood supply, preventing their growth.
While this effect on cancer cells was observed in all types of cancer, researchers focused on prostate cancer because lycopene is known to be stored in the prostate. The initial results have encouraged scientists to pursue more studies. Studies show that lycopene also enhances the anti-tumor effects of the prostate cancer drug Docetaxel.
Tomatoes and Asbestos-Related Cancer
The benefits of tomatoes even extend to asbestos-induced cancers such as mesothelioma. The consumption of tomatoes and tomato juice reduced the risk of developing mesothelioma by as much as 40 percent in people who worked in occupations with asbestos exposure. Tomatoes may also reduce tissue inflammation, one of the aggravating factors for mesothelioma.
Tomatoes also reduce the risk of other cancers that can also be caused by asbestos exposure, such as cancer of the oral cavity and the pharynx. A study showed that people who ate high quantities of tomatoes had half the risk of developing these types of cancer. Lycopene and lutein from tomatoes also prevented the growth of cancerous cells in the colon.
Most researchers agree that processed tomato products contain higher levels of absorbable lycopene. Since the antioxidants in tomatoes are fat soluble, cooking tomatoes with a small amount of oil or fat also helps the body absorb the nutrients.
Bio: Michelle Y. Llamas researches and writes about asbestos and its related diseases for The Mesothelioma Center.
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