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New & Now: Fall 2008

Darkness Visible

Trains on Time

Vision Quest

Plastic War

Disappearing Doctors

Bad Business

Early Warning

Protective Paste

 

Photo illustration by Blake Dinsdale and Nicholas Benner

Protective Paste

An organic carbohydrate in processed tomatoes is a potent cancer fighter.

Its natural mellowing agents, according to the Ketchup Advisory Board of Lake Wobegon, Minn., help a person stave off worries and transcend life's unwelcome vicissitudes. As luck would have it, that's not the only reason you might want to keep ketchup -- as well as its close cousin tomato paste -- flowing over your favorite foods.

University scientists have determined that carbohydrates from processed tomato products, particularly tomato powder, may be a key to unlocking the prostate cancer-fighting potential of everyone's favorite fruit. Tomatoes' positive effect on prostate health has been noted before, credited chiefly to lycopene, the antioxidant that makes ripe tomatoes red. But studies have shown that diet supplements of pure lycopene aren't effective in preventing disease. Only now, thanks to a recent MU finding, can researchers point to a reason why.

"It appears that the greatest protective effect from tomatoes comes from dehydrating tomato paste into tomato powder," says Valeri Mossine, research assistant professor of biochemistry. What's more, he adds, this effect may not be something unique to the tomato. "Processing many edible plants through heating, grinding, mixing or drying dramatically increases their nutritional value and may lead to cancer-preventing potential," he says.

In a study published in the June issue of Cancer Research, a journal of the American Association for Cancer Research, Mossine and MU biochemistry professor Thomas Mawhinney found that FruHis, a small carbohydrate present in dehydrated tomato products, provided significant protection, when combined with lycopene, against prostate cancer -- at least among rodents.

During the study, Mossine injected laboratory rats with prostate cancer-causing chemicals, then divided them into four groups. A control group ate a normal rat diet, while the other groups got tomatoes in either powdered, paste or paste-plus-FruHis form.

The results were striking. Rats consuming tomato paste with the FruHis boost survived longest, with only 10 percent developing tumors in the prostate. By contrast, 60 percent in the tomato-free control group ended up with the cancerous tumors. The other tomato-eaters fared better, though not as well as the group receiving the FruHis boost: 30 percent of those fed tomato powder developed tumors, while 25 percent of the group fed tomato paste alone had prostate tumors.

The reason for FruHis' effectiveness remains something of a mystery, but Mossine and his colleagues are working on answers. "Before this study, researchers attributed the protective effect of tomatoes to ascorbic acid, carotenoids or phenolic compounds. FruHis may represent a novel type of potential dietary antioxidant," Mossine says. "Our ongoing research now focuses on unraveling the mechanisms behind why this molecule has the beneficial effect. This knowledge may lead to other avenues of research and drug development for prostate and other cancers."

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Published by the Office of Research.

©2009 Curators of the University of Missouri. Click here to contact the editor.

 

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