In a study conducted in Japan it has been shown that tomato juice prevented emphysema in mice exposed to cigarette smoke, which is a known cause of the lung-destroying disease.
The lung protective effect was attributed to Lycopene, present in tomatoes.
This study appears to be the first to link tomato consumption to emphysema prevention.
As a cautionary word by the researchers, 'We can't simply accept that these results go beyond the mouse model,' Kuniaki Seyama, a leader of the research team at Juntendo University School of Medicine in Tokyo, said in a statement. 'They are not so smoothly applied to human beings.'
But a desire was also expressed that they would like to test the effect of tomato juice on people with chronic obstructive lung disease (COPD).
The Japanese researchers used two breeds of mice, one normal and one bred to age quickly; emphysema would show up quicker in those mice. The findings revealed that that after eight weeks of exposure to cigarette smoke; the fast-aging mice did develop emphysema, while the normal mice did not. But when they had the mice drink a 50 percent tomato juice mixture, emphysema did not develop.
Lycopene was probably responsible for the protective effect, they wrote, because tobacco smoke is full of tissue-destroying oxidant molecules and lycopene is a powerful antioxidant.
'We expect that lycopene modulates the oxidant-antioxidant balance perturbed by our experimental condition of tobacco smoke exposure,' they wrote.
A different theory relating this phenomenon to beta carotenes was put forth by scientists from US.
The study will appear in the February issue of the American
Journal of Physiology-Lung Physiology, published by the American Physiological Society.