Tomatoes 'help keep skin young' and protect against sunburn
Tomatoes are very widely eaten so we should all be brimming with good health. And regular pizza eaters should be a health elite. The study was however a very small one and appears to have been supported by Heinz, a major supplier of tomato paste
Forget the expensive skin creams, tomatoes may provide the best defence to keeping skin looking young and safe from sun damage, say scientists.
Tests show that eating tomato paste could help protect against sunburn and skin ageing caused by sunlight exposure.
The age-defying ingredient is lycopene - the natural pigment that makes tomatoes red - with highest levels found in processed or cooked tomatoes used in ketchup, paste, soup and juice.
Professor Mark Birch-Machin from Newcastle University, will present details of the research today (thurs) at the Royal Society of Medicine in London.
In the study, women eating a diet rich in processed tomatoes had increased skin protection, as seen by a reduction in skin redness and less DNA damage from ultraviolet (UV) exposure.
Researchers compared the skin of 20 women, half of whom were given five tablespoons (55g) of standard tomato paste with 10g of olive oil every day for 12 weeks.
The effects on their skin were compared with the remaining volunteers, aged between 21 and 47, eating just olive oil for the same length of time.
The volunteers were exposed to UV rays found in sunlight at the beginning and end of the trial.
The researchers found significant improvement in the skin’s ability to protect itself against UV among those eating tomato paste.
Compared with the other women, the tomato-eating group had 33 per cent more protection against sunburn in the form of less redness.
The researchers calculated that protection offered by the tomato paste to be equivalent to a sunscreen with a sun protection factor (SPF) of 1.3.
Skin samples taken from groups before and after trial showed an increase in levels of procollagen, a molecule which gives skin its structure and loss of which leads to skin ageing and lack of elasticity.
There was also less damage to mitochondrial DNA in the skin, which is also believed to be linked to skin ageing.
Dermatology scientist Prof Birch-Machin said the tomato paste eaten was not overly excessive, but the amount that would be consumed from a lot of tomato-based meals.
He said ‘Eating tomatoes will not make you invincible in the sun but it may be a useful addition to sun protection along with sunscreen, 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.’
Lycopene is a powerful antioxidant, which can reduce the inflammatory response to UV damage by neutralising harmful molecules that are produced in the skin as a result.
Sun damage from UV exposure includes premature wrinkles and skin cancer.
The highest levels of lycopene are found in processed tomatoes used in ketchup, soup and juice which are more easily absorbed into the body.
The typical daily intake of a British adult is less than one milligram, about 25 times less than the amount found in studies to protect against disease.
Previous research suggests 8oz of tomato juice, 150gm of pasta sauce, or one lycopene tablet a day are sufficient to boost blood lycopene levels.
Other international experts at the meeting, which is supported by Heinz, include Professor Indika Edirisinghe, from the Illinois Institute of Technology in the US, who suggests processed tomatoes can improve high blood pressure in people at risk of heart disease.
Studies on 28 volunteers following high and low tomato diets for 6 weeks found that blood pressure in men and women was significantly lower in those with elevated blood pressure.
Work by Dr Mridula Chopra from the University of Portsmouth suggests cooked tomatoes may intercept cancer growth or even kill prostate cancer cells.
Dr Chopra’s research shows that lycopene inhibits the proliferation of prostate cancer lines.
In test tube studies, lycopene reduced the adhesion and invasion properties of prostate cancer and has been shown to intercept mechanisms important to cancer initiation, progression and cell death.
While further clinical trials are needed, Dr Chopra said further trials are need, but in the meantime he recommends eating three to four servings of processed tomato products per week for prostate health.
Thousands of rheumatoid arthritis patients could live longer if they were given a little-used class of drug which cuts the death rate in sufferers by almost 50 per cent, according to a new study.
Patients who had been taking biologic treatments — currently only prescribed in severe cases when traditional therapies fail — were significantly less likely to die from health problems in the following three years.
The researchers found that those who had recently used the biologic therapies, called anti-tumour necrosis factor drugs (anti-TNFs), were half as likely to die as those who had only taken the common drug type, disease modifying antirheumatic drugs (DMARDS).
Patients taking rituximab, another type of biologic treatment, had about a 40 per cent lower chance of dying than those who had only taken DMARDS.
Researchers from the German Rheumatism Research Centre in Berlin studied the death rate amongst almost 9,000 sufferers of rheumatoid arthritis and presented their findings at the annual conference of the European League Against Rheumatism. The scientists estimated that 21 in every one thousand people using the standard drugs would die over a 12-month period within the three-year study, compared with 11 using anti-TNFs and 13 taking rituximab.
Dr Joachim Listing, who led the study, said: “It is well-known that patients with RA have lower life expectancies than the general population.
“Our study demonstrates the positive impact that biologic treatment can have on patient’s life expectancy. These drugs are helpful to prevent premature death in patients with heavily active disease.”
Although patients do not die directly from arthritis, the new research suggests that biologic drugs may reduce the risk of death from other causes. Separate studies have suggested that by reducing the inflammation associated with rheumatoid arthritis, biologic drugs could lower the risk of heart disease and infection.
Another paper presented at the conference reported that using anti-TNF drugs for one, two or three years cut patients’ risk of heart attacks by 24 per cent, 42 per cent and 56 per cent respectively.
Biologic treatments, which came into use in 1998, are genetically engineered drugs that copy the effects of natural antibodies produced by the immune system to lower inflammation. They are very effective but are also more expensive than traditional treatments, and are only prescribed to an estimated 46,000 of the 650,000 rheumatoid arthritis patients in Britain, usually in cases where cheaper treatments are not sufficient to relieve patients’ symptoms, or cause adverse side effects.
A spokesman for Arthritis Research UK said: “Biologic drugs really have transformed the treatment of severe rheumatoid arthritis and the lives of millions of patients around the world, and for the first time the concept of being able to achieve remission in rheumatoid arthritis is an achievable reality, rather than just an aspiration.
“Achieving and sustaining remission in patients with early rheumatoid arthritis remains a major goal for our researchers and others — and the more it can be achieved the longer the life expectancy will be for patients.”
A third study presented by Roche, the drug manufacturer, at the conference indicated that patients who cannot take methotrexate, the most common treatment, are four times as likely to go into remission if they use RoActemra, a biologic drug made by Roche, than with another biologic drug known as Humira.