Tomatoes offer more than just tasty zing
A tomato a day to keep cancer away? That's the implication of the most comprehensive review so far of the scientific evidence for eating fresh and processed tomatoes and reducing the risk of some cancers.
The report, in the current Journal of the National Cancer Institute, looked at 72 studies and found that 35 of them showed a statistically significant lower cancer risk among people who ate more fresh tomatoes and tomato-based products like sauce.
The ingredient in tomatoes hypothesized to have the apparent anti-cancer effect is lycopene, which gives the fruit its characteristic red color. But more research needs to be done before cause and effect can be established, said Dr. Edward Giovannucci, a Harvard researcher who authored the review.
Some tomato processing companies have already latched onto the emerging evidence. H. J. Heinz Co. launched an ad campaign last month, touting its ketchup as America's favorite source of lycopene, to the dismay of Giovannucci and other researchers, who say it's too early to say lycopene prevents cancer. They have not received funding from Heinz.
But Giovannucci and other researchers participated in a telephone news conference sponsored by Campbell Soup Company Wednesday, to highlight what was billed as the conclusion of a Harvard scientific review, that eating processed tomato products may lower risk of cancer. Giovannucci said that he has not directly received funding from Campbell Soup for his research, although he added that company gifts have funded research assistants in his department.