Foods rich in cooked tomatoes may boost your body’s ability to ward off skin damage from the sun’s ultraviolet (UV) rays and stave off the effects of aging, according to a study conducted by researchers from the universities of Manchester and Newcastle, England, and presented to the British Society for Investigative Dermatology.
Researchers fed 10 volunteers a daily supplement of 10 grams of olive oil and 55 grams of standard tomato paste, while another 10 were given only the olive oil. After three months, the researchers analyzed skin samples from all 20 participants.
They found that volunteers who had eaten the tomatoes exhibited 33 percent more protection against sunburn than those who had taken olive oil alone. They also had higher levels of procollagen, a protein that plays a crucial role in preserving skin structure.
“The tomato diet boosted the level of procollagen in the skin significantly. These increasing levels suggest potential reversal of the skin aging process,” researcher Lesley Rhodes said.
“These weren’t huge amounts of tomato we were feeding the group. It was the sort of quantity you would easily manage if you were eating a lot of tomato-based meals.”
Researchers believe that the protective benefit observed came from an antioxidant that naturally occurs in tomatoes, known as lycopene. Because lycopene in raw tomatoes is bound in a form that is difficult for the body to use, cooking dramatically increases the bioavailability of the chemical. This is why the researchers used tomato paste for the study.
The scientists believe that lycopene neutralizes free radicals that are formed when UV radiation strikes the skin. These free radicals have been linked to cancer and the effects of aging.
The researchers warned that the sun protection acquired from the tomatoes was equivalent only to that provided by a low-grade sunscreen and should be used as a “helpful addition,” rather than a replacement.
Sources for this story include: news.bbc.co.uk.