A new study finds that lycopene is not the only compound in tomatoes that could prevent prostate cancer.
Lycopene is a carotenoid in tomatoes that gives them that familiar red color. Research has suggested lycopene could reduce the risk of prostate cancer. But it is unclear if lycopene itself is responsible for the risk reduction.
Researchers from the University of Illinois studied the diets of rats to determine what substances help in the prevention of prostate cancer.
For the study, some rats were fed whole tomato powder, some were fed lycopene alone, and others had a standard diet. The whole tomato powder contained lycopene and other compounds. Researchers report the rats fed whole tomato powder had a lower risk of death from prostate cancer than rats fed diets of pure lycopene or a standard diet. Specifically, the rats fed the tomato powder had a 26-percent lower risk of prostate cancer death than the other rats.
After four weeks, the rats were divided into two new groups including one with unlimited access to food and one group that ate only 80 percent of the average daily intake of food. Researchers found the diet-restricted group had a 32-percent lower risk of dying with prostate cancer than those with unlimited access to food.
Researchers say many patients take lycopene supplements with the hope they will prevent or enhance their treatment for prostate cancer. They say more work is needed to understand the role of various compounds in tomatoes and how they play a role in the prevention of prostate cancer.
Meanwhile researchers suggest patients should focus on eating whole tomato products while the benefits of lycopene supplements are studied.