'Eating five tomatoes daily offers sun protection'

London, Apr 29 | Updated: Apr 30 2008, 06:17am hrs
Eating tomatoes will not make you invincible in the sun, but the juicy fruits might be a useful addition to the sun protection tool box. A new study, carried out by researchers from Newcastle University and Manchester University, has revealed that eating five tomatoes everyday could help protect against sunburn and premature ageing.

According to the researchers, ultraviolet rays lead to excess production of harmful molecules called reactive oxygen species which can damage skin structures and tomatoes contain an antioxidant called lycopene which neutralises them.

You dont have to eat an excessive amount of tomatoes to experience the effect if you are already eating a tomato-based diet with plenty of things like spaghetti and pizza toppings. Eating tomatoes is going to have this benefit in the sun, but it is still important to use conventional methods of protecting yourself against the sun such as sunscreens, shade and clothing, lead researcher Professor Mar Birch-Machin was quoted by The Daily Telegraph as saying. In their study, the researchers analysed the skin of 20 people, half of whom were given five tablespoons of (55g) standard tomato paste, the equivalent of five cooked tomatoes, with 10g of olive oil. The other half received only olive oil. The experiment was carried out over 12 weeks and the group was exposed to ultraviolet light at the beginning and the end of the trial. Those who had eaten the paste had 33 per% more protection against sunburn.

Analysis of skin samples from both groups also showed that the tomatoes had boosted the skins procollagen levels, a molecule which gives skin its structure. Losing procollagen leads to the skin ageing and losing its elasticity. The increased levels of lycopene reduced damage to mitochondrial DNA in the skin, which is also linked to ageing skin, found the researchers, who now hope to carry out further studies to establish whether tomatoes prevent skin cancer.