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Italian-food lovers everywhere, rejoice: Tomato sauce is even healthier than previously suspected. Research is showing that tomatoes and tomato-based foods are excellent sources of lycopene, an antioxidant with cancer-fighting abilities; specifically, lycopene is believed to significantly reduce a man’s chances of getting prostate cancer. Prostate cancer is serious: It affects one in four men over age 50, who may suffer impotence and incontinence as a result, and is the second leading cause of cancer death in American men.
A six-year study of prostate cancer in 40- to 75-year-old men was recently published in the Journal of the National Cancer Institute as a follow-up to a previous six-year study. Nearly 50,000 men reported on the foods they ate so researchers could evaluate their intakes of lycopene-rich foods, including tomatoes and tomato sauces (e.g., pasta sauce and salsa); pizza; watermelon; and grapefruit.
Consuming tomato sauce (considered the best source of lycopene) more than twice per week reduced the odds for prostate cancer by about 25%, compared to consuming it less than once per month. A high estimated lycopene intake from any foods was also associated with a significant reduction in prostate cancer risk.
These data confirm previous reports of a reduced risk for prostate cancer through consuming tomato products and other sources of lycopene. Cooked tomatoes and tomato products, such as ketchup and various tomato sauces, are the optimal sources of lycopene.
Giovannucci E, Rimm EB, Liu Y, et al. A prospective study of tomato products, lycopene, and prostate cancer risk. Journal of the National Cancer Institute 2002:94(5), pp. 391-398.