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Tomatoes may help fight cancer and heart disease

Two Canadian researchers say the pigment that gives tomatoes their red colour may help protect people from several big killers, including cancer and heart disease.

The pigment, called lycopene, is one of the most potent anti-oxidants known. Cell damage caused by oxidation is believed to be an important part of the processes that lead to several chronic diseases.

Sanjiv Agarwal and Akkinappally Venketeshwer Rao, of the University of Toronto's department of nutritional science, reviewed existing literature regarding lycopene and found it's involved in other protective mechanisms.

They say the pigment may have a role in regulating some gene functions, and hormone and immune responses. It may also regulate metabolism, lowering the risk of chronic disease.

The literature they reviewed included one U.S. study that showed prostate cancer was 35 per cent lower in those who consumed 10 or more servings of tomatoes every week.

Agarwal and Rao say they found a total of 35 large studies that provide evidence showing that eating tomatoes reduces the risk of cancer. Despite the evidence, the scientists say they still don't know what lycopene does to make cancer rates go down.

Products that contains high levels of the pigment include tomato sauce, spaghetti sauce, chili sauce, pizza and tomato soup.

The study appears in Monday's edition of the Canadian Medical Association Journal.

Sept 20, 2000







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