The study showed that in mice lycopene in tomatoes reduces fatty liver disease, inflammation and development of liver cancer caused by high-fat diets.
In the battle against cancer there is a surprising tool: the food we eat. This is because it has been found that some nutrients in food have a role in cancer prevention, and this is relevant because the World Cancer Research Fund reports that it is possible to prevent 30 to 50 percent of cancer cases, focusing on the prevention of cancer development.
Although the rate of most cancers is decreasing, there is growing concern over the incidence and mortality rates of liver cancer in the United States, partly due to the parallel rise in non-alcoholic fatty liver disease, obesity and diabetes.

One of the most interesting ingredients is tomato and tomato products rich in lycopene, a natural pigment.

Tufts: What did your study find?

Xiang-Dong Wang: For the first time we have shown that the lycopene of tomato can effectively reduce fatty liver disease, inflammation and development of liver cancer, which is fueled by high-fat diet. Feeding with tomatoes increased of useful microbiota and prevented the excessive growth of some bacteria associated with inflammation.

It is interesting that we noticed that tomato is more effective than the same dose of purified lycopene supplementation to prevent the development of liver cancer. This may be due to the potential beneficial effects of other nutrients in the whole tomato, such as vitamin E, vitamin C, folic acid, minerals, phenolic compounds and dietary fiber.

The next step would be to conduct high-quality randomized clinical trials with humans to better understand the role of lycopene in reducing the risk of inflammation and liver disease. In the meantime, we believe that consuming whole foods rich in lycopene can be more effective in preventing cancer than isolated or purified lycopene.

What do we know about lycopene?

The richest source of lycopene is tomato. Other foods, including guava, watermelon, grapefruit, papaya and sweet red peppers also contain lycopene, but at much lower concentrations than tomatoes. Consuming tomatoes and tomato products, such as tomato sauce rich in lycopene, is associated with a lower risk of cardiovascular disease, osteoporosis, diabetes, and certain types of cancer, including prostate, lung, breast and colon cancer.

Although these associations come from observer studies, many laboratory studies have shown that lycopene is a potent antioxidant, antiinflammatory and anti-cancer agent.

How can we maximize the use of lycopene?

The best source of lycopene is consuming whole foods, such as tomatoes and processed tomato sauce, tomato paste, canned tomato products, ketchup and juice. Cooking tomatoes and adding a small amount of fat, such as olive oil, can help to improve the absorption of lycopene.

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