Can Processed Tomato be Healthier than Fresh?

Aug. 7, 2008
FruHis may increase processed tomatoes' cancer-fighting potential

Despite advice that eating a whole food can be superior to eating a supplement or a processed food containing the vitamins or minerals of the real thing, the tomato is turning that dictum on its ear, reports the Detroit News.

Researchers at the University of Missouri found that processed tomato products fed to rats have better cancer-fighting benefits than tomatoes picked off the vine. That jives with recent studies that found processed tomato products, particularly tomato paste, may fight prostate cancer better than a fresh red tomato.

According to the study, published in the June issue of Cancer Research, a journal of the American Assn. for Cancer Research and financed by the Prostate Cancer Foundation and the MU Agriculture Experiment Station Chemistry Lab, it isn't just the lycopene in tomatoes that protects against cancer. When linked with a compound called FruHis — an organic carbohydrate present in dehydrated tomato products — it exerts a stronger protective effect against prostate cancer.

"It appears that the greatest protective effect from tomatoes comes from rehydrating tomato powder into tomato paste," said Valeri Mossine, research assistant professor of biochemistry in the College of Agriculture, Food and Natural Resources. "Processing of many edible plants through heating, grinding, mixing or drying dramatically increases their nutritional value and cancer-fighting potential.

"Before this study, researchers attributed the protective effect of tomatoes to ascorbic acid, carotenoids or phenolic compounds," Mossine continues. "FruHis may represent a novel type of potential dietary antioxidant. Our ongoing research now focuses on unraveling the mechanisms behind why this has a beneficial effect."

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