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Of tomatoes, lycopene, and the power of persuasion

Posted Feb 08 2010 12:00am

The potential of lycopene (a natural product found at relatively high levels in tomatoes) to prevent prostate cancer is still much debated by the scientific community. By contrast, the potential of advertising to influence consumer behavior is not! So if you live in the United Kingdom and you are a possible candidate for prostate cancer (i.e., male and over about 35 years of age), please expect to become a target for a new advertising campaign.

According to an article in today’s Daily Mail, a new Spanish-grown tomato known as the Moruno has twice the level of lycopene compared to “normal” tomatoes (whatever a “normal” tomato is; there are literally hundred and hundreds of varieties). This wonder of cross-pollination and controlled breeding is already being touted as a “super-tomato” that, in addition to its lycopene content (“double the power to fight cancer”), also has “as much vitamin C as a similar-sized orange” (which presumably wouldn’t be that much given the relative sizes of oranges and tomatoes).

No doubt it will only be a matter of time before the Moruno manages to sneak its way onto American supermarket aisles as well … and then Americans can also spend their money on another product that offers no actual evidence whatsoever (as yet) that eating it has any health benefits at all!

Are tomatoes good for you? Well, it is certainly likely that consumption of 0.5 lb (225 g) of tomatoes is better for you on a daily basis than the same weight of (say) butter or bacon … but then if the other food you eat each day includes things like 2 doughnuts, a Big Mac with fries, and a large pizza for dinner, it’s probable that no amount of lycopene is going to make any significant difference!

We trust that the Moruno will be a profitable investment for its developers … We’ll stick with the tomatoes from the garden!

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