A nutrient in cooked tomatoes has been shown in laboratory studies to slow the growth of or even kill prostate cancer cells.
Dr Mridula Chopra and colleagues at the University of Portsmouth tested the effect of the nutrient lycopene on the simple mechanism through which cancer cells hijack a body’s healthy blood supply in order to grow and spread.
They found lycopene – which is what gives tomatoes their red colour – intercepts cancer’s ability to make the connections it needs to attach to a healthy blood supply.
The researchers, from the university’s School of Pharmacy and Biomedical Sciences, are now calling for tests to check if the same reaction occurs in the human body.
Director of the research Dr Chopra said: “This simple chemical reaction was shown to occur at lycopene concentrations that can easily be achieved by eating processed tomatoes.”
Lycopene is present in all red fruits and vegetables, but its concentrations are highest in tomatoes and it becomes more readily available and biologically active when it comes from processed tomatoes with a small amount of cooking oil added.
Dr Chopra said: “I stress that our tests were done in test tubes in a laboratory and more testing needs to be carried out to confirm our findings, but the laboratory evidence we have found is clear.”
The research is published in the British Journal of Nutrition.