Tomatoes protect breasts

Up until the end of the eighteenth century, physicians in the United States warned against eating tomatoes, fearing they caused not only appendicitis but also stomach cancer from tomato skins adhering to the lining of the stomach. The Latin name of the plant reflects this early paranoia about the plant. Lycopersicon esculentum translates as “wolfpeach”, the “wolf” indicating the supposed dangerous nature of the plant and “peach” referring to its shape and luscious taste. For the duration of the 20th century of course the tomato was no longer regarded as dangerous and adorned cuisines across the world. Not content with this culinary acceptance however, the tomato pushed forward and gained itself medicinal acclaim largely based on its plentiful supply of the antioxidant lycopene. Now in a new study the effect of tomatoes on a hormone called adiponectin has suggested that they may be useful in preventing breast cancer.

For the study researchers analysed post-menopausal women for 20 weeks. For the first ten weeks the women consumed a tomato rich diet that involved consumption of about 25mg of lycopene per day. That means about eight fresh tomatoes per day or 55 grams of sundried tomatoes. For the next ten weeks the women followed a soy rich diet in which they consumed at least 40 grams of soy protein daily.

The women were asked to refrain from eating all tomato or soy products for two weeks prior to each phase.

Blood analysis showed that when consuming the tomato rich diet the women had a nine per cent increase in levels of a hormone called adiponectin. This adiponectin is involved in regulation of fat and sugar levels. There is also evidence that increasing adiponectin reduces breast cancer risk. In fact, a study published in August 2013 in the journal PLos ONE analysed epidemiological studies published up until March 2013. The analysis involved 17 separate studies and concluded that increasing adiponectin does decrease risk of breast cancer.

The research supports the idea that favouring tomatoes as part of the fruit and vegetable intake for post-menopausal women can reduce the chances of breast cancer. Maybe the wolfpeach isn’t so wolfy after all.

Terry Robson

Terry Robson

Terry Robson is the Editor-in-Chief of WellBeing and the Editor of EatWell.

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