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Dr. Jawid Khan

Functional Foods: Boost Your Health With New Purple Tomatoes

Posted by Dr. Jawid on 21/03/2011 in Functional Foods with No Comments

Is the world really ready for the latest in functional foods – the purple tomato?

A team out of the John Innes Centre, Norwich is asking us to face just this question as they’ve developed a new breed of tomato, rich in an antioxidant pigment known as anthocyanin that is believed to offer protection from cancer.

The British researchers took two genes known to induce production of anthocyanin from the snapdragon plant and put them into the tomato. As not one of the human researchers had the nerve to eat the surprisingly purple fruit that resulted, the tomatoes were fed to cancer prone mice instead. Amazingly the animals lived for an average of 182 days, compared to just 142 days for mice fed a standard diet and 146 days for mice fed normal red tomatoes.

Seems like those purple tomatoes did something.

”I think it is one of the first genetically modified foods that’s seen to have a consumer advantage,” explains plant biologist Cathie Martin who helped to create the tomato and has been fielding media calls since the publication of the study in Nature Biotechnology.

Anthocyanin is the substance that is found in grapes, blackberries, blueberries and even cranberries and has been shown to slow down the growth of colon cancer cells. Other evidence suggests that the colorful pigments in these berries can help boost eyesight, act as an anti-inflammatory and may even hold off diabetes and reduce the risk of obesity.

Experts also suspect the substance is able to offer protection against cardiovascular disease and many age related degenerative diseases.

Those who are uncomfortable with eating genetically altered foods (sometimes called functional food) point to the obvious solution. To get the health benefits of anthocyanin, eat the natural sources of the substance – grapes, berries and the like.

Healthy, varied sources of nutrients are always the best choice. Looking for one “superfood” plays into the idea that there are “miracle cures” for health issues. What’s more, tomatoes are already nutrient rich – chock full of antioxidant compounds like lycopene and flavonoids. Do we really need to put time and effort into making them better?

Besides the striking purple color, researchers insist what makes this new breed of purple tomatoes so incredible is that the healthful anthocyanins are in both the skin and the flesh of the fruit. This makes it more likely that sauces made our of these tomatoes would keep the healthful benefits. Although it’s hard to imagine purple pizza… As for the taste… well Martin says she’s tasted it and you can’t tell the flavor from a regular tomato, there is no berry taste at all.

The British researchers hope they’ve made a start toward producing a new generation of “functional foods” to combat a wide range of serious diseases, cancer included. The purple tomato (still a long way from any produce department in store) would join omega-3 fatty acid added to eggs (to help heart disease) and probiotics in yogurt (to help digestive function) already available on store shelves.

Over 14,000 people have joined Kirsten’s popular (and sometimes controversial) Daily Health Bulletin, so why not join them and find out more about the benefits of functional foods and other health news daily. You also get 5 comprehensive health reports free when you join – giving you all you need to treat common ailments, lose weight, look younger and feel healthier.

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