Tracing the activity of a cancer-fighting component in tomatoes

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❝Years of research in University of Illinois scientist John Erdman’s laboratory have demonstrated that lycopene, the bioactive red pigment found in tomatoes, reduces growth of prostate tumors in a variety of animal models. Until now, though, he did not have a way to trace lycopene’s metabolism in the human body.

❝”Our team has learned to grow tomato plants in suspension culture that produce lycopene molecules with a heavier molecular weight. With this tool, we can trace lycopene’s absorption, biodistribution, and metabolism in the body of healthy adults. In the future, we will be able to conduct such studies in men who have prostate cancer and gain important information about this plant component’s anti-cancer activity,” said John W. Erdman Jr., a U of I emeritus professor of nutrition…❞

❝In this first study, the team followed lycopene activity in the blood of eight persons by feeding them lycopene labeled with the non-radioactive carbon-13. The researchers then drew blood hourly for 10 hours after dosing and followed with additional blood draws 1, 3, and 28 days later…❞

❝”The results provide novel information about absorption efficiency and how quickly lycopene is lost from the body. We determined its half-life in the body and now understand that the structural changes occur after the lycopene is absorbed,” Erdman explained.

❝”Most tomato lycopene that we eat exists as the all-trans isomer, a rigid and straight form, but in the bodies of regular tomato consumers, most lycopene exists as cis isomers, which tend to be bent and flexible. Because cis-lycopene is the form most often found in the body, some investigators think it may be the form responsible for disease risk reduction,” Nancy Engelmann Moran explained.

❝”We wanted to understand why there is more cis-lycopene in the body, and by mathematically modeling our patients’ blood carbon-13 lycopene concentration data, we found that it is likely due to a conversion of all-trans to cis lycopene, which occurs soon after we absorb lycopene from our food,” she added…❞

❝The plant biofactories that produce the heavier, traceable lycopene are now being used to produce heavier versions of other bioactive food components…Right now, though, the Illinois-Ohio State team is excited about the new information the lycopene study has yielded. “In the future, these new techniques could help us to better understand how lycopene reduces prostate cancer risk and severity. We will be able to develop evidence-based dietary recommendations for prostate cancer prevention,” Erdman said.❞

Once again, I offer special thanks to the Italian half of my family for continuing the Mediterranean diet they grew up with – after they came to these shores. Passing it along to my mother, to my generation, born here.

2 thoughts on “Tracing the activity of a cancer-fighting component in tomatoes

  1. Chimayóso says:

    “Tomatoes of the same quality as normal, but using only half the water” (University of Seville 2/21/18) https://www.eurekalert.org/pub_releases/2018-02/uos-tot022118.php
    Experts from the Pharmacy Faculty and the Higher Technical School of Agricultural Engineering (Escuela Técnica Superior de Ingeniería Agronómica – ETSIA) of the University of Seville have published a study that shows that when reducing the water used to water cherry tomato crops by more than 50%, the product not only maintains its quality, both commercially and nutritionally, but it also even increases the level of carotenoids, compounds of great interest in the food-processing industry. In addition to being natural colourings, some are Vitamin-A precursors, which are beneficial for the health and have cosmetic uses. These findings, published in the important international review Food Chemistry, are the result of a three-year study, during which the researchers analysed two varieties of cherry tomatoes and other new types of tomatoes, in both autumn and spring cycles in ETSIA’s own fields. The “controlled watering deficit”, which is what this technique is called, consists of reducing watering as much as possible during the most resistant phase of cultivation and to increase the supply of water at the start of the phase of cultivation that is most sensitive to stress.
    See also “Tomato as a Source of Carotenoids and Polyphenols Targeted to Cancer Prevention” https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC4931623/

  2. Jardinière says:

    How the humble marigold outsmarts a devastating tomato pest : Scientists have revealed for the first time the natural weapon used by marigolds to protect tomato plants against destructive whiteflies” (Newcastle University 3/1/19) Researchers from Newcastle University’s School of Natural and Environmental Sciences, carried out a study to prove what gardeners around the world have known for generations – marigolds repel tomato whiteflies. Publishing their findings today (1 March) in the journal PLOS ONE, the experts have identified limonene – released by marigolds – as the main component responsible for keeping tomato whiteflies at bay. The insects find the smell of limonene repellent and are slowed down by the powerful chemical.
    The findings of the study have the potential to pave the way to developing a safer and cheaper alternatives to pesticides. Since limonene repels the whitefly without killing them, using the chemical shouldn’t lead to resistance, and the study has shown that it doesn’t affect the quality of the produce. All it takes to deter the whiteflies is interspersing marigolds in tomato plots, or hang little pots of limonene in among the tomato plants so that the smell can disperse out into the tomato foliage. Limonene makes up around 90% of the oil in citrus peel and is commonly found in household air fresheners and mosquito repellent.
    See also “Companion planting with French marigolds protects tomato plants from glasshouse whiteflies through the emission of airborne limonene” https://journals.plos.org/plosone/article?id=10.1371/journal.pone.0213071

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