Tomatoes found to fight sun damage

Apr 28, 2008

Tomatoes could be the new weapon in the fight against sun damage to the skin, research at the Universities of Newcastle and Manchester has revealed. According to a study presented at the British Society for Investigative Dermatology this month, eating tomato paste could help protect against sunburn and sun-induced skin ageing.

In the study, researchers compared the skin of 20 people, half of whom were given five tablespoons (55g) of standard tomato paste with 10g of olive oil every day, with the other half receiving just olive oil, over a period of 12 weeks.

The skin was exposed to ultraviolet (UV) light - which is found naturally in sunlight - at the beginning and end of the trial. The team found significant improvements in the skin’s ability to protect itself against UV in the group who had been eating tomato paste.

Professor Lesley Rhodes, dermatologist at the University of Manchester, says, “The tomato diet boosted the level of procollagen in the skin significantly. These increasing levels suggest potential reversal of the skin ageing process. This is in addition to the significant reduction in sunburn.

“These weren’t huge amounts of tomato we were feeding the group. It was the sort of quantity you would easily manage if you eating a lot of tomato-based meals.

“People should not think that tomatoes in any way can replace sun creams, but they may be a good additive. If you can improve your protection through your diet then over several years, this may have a significant effect.”

Many of the harmful effects of UV light are due to the excess production of harmful molecules known as ‘reactive oxygen species’ which can damage important skin structures. Sun damage from UV exposure includes premature wrinkles and skin cancer.

The tomato’s key skin saving property is a powerful antioxidant called ‘lycopene’, which is able to neutralise or ‘quench’ the harmful molecules.

Lycopene is the bright red pigment found in a number of red fruit and vegetables, but with its highest levels in cooked tomatoes. As tomato paste contains a high concentration of cooked tomatoes, it is an ideal source of lycopene.

Compared to the control group, the group who had eaten the paste were found to have 33 per cent more protection against sunburn, which can lead to skin cancer. The researchers calculated the protection offered by the tomato paste to be equivalent to a sunscreen with a sun protection factor (SPF) of 1.3.

By looking at the effects on skin ageing by studying skin samples taken from both groups, before and after trial, the Manchester team discovered that the tomato diet had boosted the skin’s levels of procollagen, a molecule which gives the skin its structure and loss of which leads to skin ageing and lack of elasticity.

Meanwhile, collaborators at Newcastle University found that the lycopene had reduced damage to mitochondrial DNA in the skin, which is also believed to be linked with skin ageing.

Professor Mark Birch-Machin, dermatology scientist from Newcastle University, says, “Eating tomatoes will not make you invincible in the sun, but it may be a useful addition to sun protection along with sunscreens, shade and clothing.

“The protective effect of eating tomatoes on our mitochondria is important as they are the energy producers in all our body cells including skin. Therefore being kind to our mitochondria is likely to contribute to improved skin health, which in turn may have an anti-ageing effect.”

Nina Goad of the British Association of Dermatologists says “While the protection offered by lycopene is low, this research suggests that a diet containing high levels of antioxidant rich tomatoes could provide an extra tool in sun protection.”

The team is now looking to start a new, longer-term study into the protective effects of lycopene on the skin.

Source: Newcastle University

Explore further: Doctor behind 'free radical' aging theory dies

add to favorites email to friend print save as pdf

Related Stories

Senators get no clear answers on air bag safety

3 hours ago

There were apologies and long-winded explanations, but after nearly four hours of testimony about exploding Takata air bags, senators never got a clear answer to the question most people have: whether or ...

Nicaragua: Studies say canal impact to be minimal

3 hours ago

Officials said Thursday that studies have determined a $40 billion inter-oceanic canal across Nicaragua will have minimal impact on the environment and society, and construction is to begin next month.

Former Brown dean whose group won Nobel Prize dies

3 hours ago

David Greer, a doctor who co-founded a group that won the 1985 Nobel Peace Prize for working to prevent nuclear war and who helped transform the medical school at Brown University, has died. He was 89.

Recommended for you

Doctor behind 'free radical' aging theory dies

21 hours ago

Dr. Denham Harman, a renowned scientist who developed the most widely accepted theory on aging that's now used to study cancer, Alzheimer's disease and other illnesses, has died in Nebraska at age 98.

Mexican boy who had massive tumor recovering

Nov 25, 2014

An 11-year-old Mexican boy who had pieces of a massive tumor removed and who drew international attention after U.S. officials helped him get treatment in the southwestern U.S. state of New Mexico is still recovering after ...

New medical device to make the mines safer

Nov 21, 2014

Dehydration can be a serious health issue for Australia's mining industry, but a new product to be developed with input from Flinders University's Medical Device Partnering Program (MDPP) is set to more effectively ...

US family gets $6.75 million in Botox case

Nov 20, 2014

A New York couple who said Botox treatment of their son's cerebral palsy left him with life-threatening complications and sued its manufacturer won a $6.75 million verdict from a federal jury on Thursday.

User comments : 1

Adjust slider to filter visible comments by rank

Display comments: newest first

Sharke
not rated yet May 02, 2009
The figures just don't add up as far as I'm concerned. The researchers say that eating tomato paste gives you 33% more protection against sunburn, then go on to say that it's the equivalent of a 1.5 SPF sun screen.

I'm sorry but a 1.5 SPF is virtually negligible and will in no way give you a 33% better protection against the sun. The Skin cancer society recommends at least 30 SPF.

Please sign in to add a comment. Registration is free, and takes less than a minute. Read more

Click here to reset your password.
Sign in to get notified via email when new comments are made.