Purple tomato found to be healthier than cheese
Researchers at Wageningen University in the Netherlands' international plant research centre have discovered that mice who eat purple tomatoes instead of cheese are less susceptible to cancer.
The study was conducted in conjunction with the John Innes Centre in Norwich, Great Britain and other European centres participating in the FLORA project.
Scientists added two genes from the snapdragon flower to the tomato, which is already rich in antioxidants such as lycopene and flavonoids. (Fried tomatoes cooked in olive oil are considered one of the best sources of lycopene.)
The genes from the snapdragon not only gave the tomatoes a tempting, appetising purplish colouring but also added anthocyanins, which are naturally-occurring pigments found at particularly high levels in blackberries and cranberries.
Normal tomatoes only produce anthocyanins in their stems and leaves.
Anthocyanins, flavonoids and lycopene are all believed to have anti-cancer properties, which, at least theoretically, makes the purple tomato an anti-cancer cocktail. Anthocyanins are also said to offer protection against heart disease and to prevent infections. While it has long been known that tomato paste offers protection against various diseases, the new purple tomatoes are said to be twice as healthy as the old-fashioned red variety.
The findings were announced this weekend in the scientific journal Nature Biotechnology. A study compared two groups of mice missing a gene making them susceptible to cancer. Mice fed a diet which for a tenth consisted of the genetically-modified purple tomatoes lived an average of 182 days, nearly 40 days longer than mice who ate red tomatoes, or no
tomatoes at all. Mice eaten by cats were not included in the study.
Not enough fruit
Scientists have been looking for ways to increase the health properties of fruits and vegetables, since the average Dutch person, as well as the average European, does not eat the five to eight portions of fruit and vegetables a day recommended by nutritionists.
The newspaper Trouw quoted Wageningen University researcher Arnaud Bovy, who says that consumers with a craving for purple tomatoes must be patient. The safety of the genetically-modified tomato has not yet been tested on humans.
"As far as I know, nobody has tasted one yet. Official approval is needed, which means there is still a long way to go. However, the British have already made an application."
Those daring British! The first person to eat one deserves a medal.