In the first study of its kind that’s been done, researchers from the University of Bristol, Cambridge and Oxford looked at the diets and lifestyles of close to 14,000 men aged 50 to 69. They concluded that men who ate at least portions of tomatoes a week were 18% less likely to develop prostate cancer than were those who had no tomatoes or very few.
They believe that the magical protection against illness comes from a key chemical in the tomato known as lycopene. Men should not panic – the tomatoes don’t have to be eaten raw. It counts if it’s tomato-based sauces that people use, tomato juice and even tomato puree on a pizza.
And being an overachiever is even a benefit here. Men who doubled their intake of fruit and vegetables to the five portions a day that is recommended reduced their risk by almost a quarter.
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Now, one portion is equal to 150 grams of tomatoes, half a pint of baked beans or a portion of pizza with a tomato puree. It’s best to keep it as pure as possible, however, and not to overindulge in baked beans and pizza sauce as they have high levels of salt content.
Prostate cancer ranks as the most common form of illness for men. There are 41,700 new cases each year and 10,700 deaths in the UK alone. As research leader Vanessa Er, of the University of Bristol, said: “Our findings suggest that tomatoes may be important in prostate cancer prevention. We also found men who ate more fruits and vegetables had a reduced risk of prostate cancer. The risk reduction figure for men who ate five or more portions of fruit or vegetables, compared to those who ate less than two and a half portions, was 24 per cent.”
Some in the medical profession disagree with a stud of this sort. As Dr. Iain Frame of the Prostate Cancer UK said, “Studies like these are notoriously difficult to interpret and should be done so with extreme caution. It is difficult to separate the effects of one type of food from another, and we still don’t have nearly enough evidence to make concrete recommendations on which specific foods men should eat to reduce their risk of prostate cancer. What we do know is that men shouldn’t rely too heavily on one type of food, such as tomatoes. A healthy, balanced diet with plenty of fresh fruit and vegetables together with regular exercise is by far the best option.”