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Tomato's anti-cancer power

Published:Wednesday | April 28, 2010 | 12:00 AM

Eulalee Thompson, Gleaner Writer

Eating merely to full your belly these days just isn't in. What you eat actually determines your disease profile and the way you look, feel, and even behave. As can be seen from the ancient cultures, the ancestors already knew this, but we lost our way, then spent several years at school relearning this and now we can confirm, based on science, that food is indeed our medicine.

The research keeps pouring in that berries, green tea, cruciferous vegetables (cabbage, broccoli, cauliflower), soursop (graviola), soy, sorrel, and the list continues, are foods with potent antioxidant and anti-cancer powers.

Eat tomatoes with broccoli

The tomato, for example, is a fruit so commonly used in Jamaica that its healing power is taken for granted. (And yes, it's a fruit, not a vegetable, because it contains the ovary of the plants and its seeds). Lycopene is the nutrient most studied in the tomato.

It is a carotenoid (similar to the pigment found in carrots) which has potent anti-cancer activity. It has been found to reduce prostate cancer risk.

In fact, a landmark study (by Erdman and Canene-Adams) published in the journal Cancer Research found that when tomatoes are combined with broccoli as part of a daily diet, the prostate tumour-fighting effect is more pronounced. The researchers believe that bioactive compounds in each food work on different anti-cancer pathways but have an additive effect.

They experimented with rats, and after 22 weeks, when they weighed the prostate tumours of the rats on the 10 per cent tomato/broccoli combination diet, they found that they outperformed rats on all other diets, shrinking prostate tumours by 52 per cent.

More potent than vitamin E

Scientists say that lycopene (generally found in red and orange-coloured fruits and vegetables) is not a necessary nutrient in the human diet. However, it is transported into the bloodstream with LDL fats and tends to accumulate in organs such as the testes, adrenal glands and liver.

As a potent antioxidant (believed now to be more potent than vitamin E as an antioxidant), lycopene reduces DNA damage to the body's cells, slowing the ageing process and giving protection against chronic diseases such as cancer. Some preliminary studies show lycopene as playing a role in reducing the risk in cardiovascular disease, diabetes, osteoporosis and male infertility.

There has also been some research on two other compounds, coumaric acid and chlorogenic acid, both found in tomato - which may help to prevent lung cancer as they are thought to block the effects of nitrosamines, carcinogens in tobacco smoke and which are also formed naturally in the body.

Choose deep-red tomatoes

The deep, bright-red tomatoes have the most lycopene, so choose those when you go shopping. Raw, uncooked tomatoes are nutritious, but in order to receive the maximum amount of the lycopene and antioxidant power of this fruit which is not water soluble, it should be cooked with a healthy oil, such as olive oil.

Processed tomatoes such as ketchup and salsas are actually better than the raw, uncooked fruits, as the former have a higher bioavailability of the important nutrient, lycopene.

I bet that you will never look at a tomato in the same way again, and you certainly will never prepare a meal without it.

Eulalee Thompson is health editor and a professional counsellor; email:

Health trends

Exercise doesn't help weight loss

Researchers of Brigham and Women's Hospital and Harvard Medical School have found that while exercising helped women with a body mass index or BMI of less than 25 (that is normal-weight women) to manage their weight, it did not impact women with a BMI from 25 to 29.9 or with a BMI of 30 or higher, that is women falling in the overweight and obese groups.

The researchers say that the data suggest that the 150-minutes-per-week exercise recommendation "while clearly sufficient to lower the risks of chronic diseases, is insufficient for weight-gain prevention absent caloric restriction. Physical activity was inversely related to weight gain only among normal-weight women; among heavier women, there was no relation, emphasising the importance of controlling caloric intake for weight maintenance in this group".

Source: /releases/2010/03/100323161452.htm

Breast density linked to cancer

A change in mammographic density for oestrogen plus progestin therapy or EPT users could explain the increased breast cancer risk found in women participating in the EPT study, a part of the Women's Health Initiative (WHI). That is the finding of a new WHI analysis led by Dr Celia Byrne, assistant professor at Georgetown Lombardi Compre-hensive Cancer Center.

The WHI, launched in 1991, consisted of clinical trials and an observational study of 161,808 healthy post-menopausal women. The study was stopped early in 2002 because of an increased cancer risk found in those taking EPT. Byrne said that mammographic density is one of the strongest predictors of breast cancer risk, suggesting that it might be a useful intermediate marker of change in breast cancer risk.

Source: Stone Hearth Newsletter