Tomatoes

The best evidence for a food that may slow the development of prostate cancer is available for tomatoes. Among sixteen studies carried out to ascertain the relationship between tomato intake and reduced prostate cancer, six found a significant relationship, three found a trend that was not statistically significant, and seven reported no relationship. In a study of 47,000 health professionals, men who consumed ''more than 10 half-cup servings of tomato products per week had a 35% lower risk of developing prostate cancer compared to men who never ate tomato products.'' Similarly, among 14,000 Seventh Day Adventist households, men ''consuming more than 5 servings of tomatoes per week had a 43% lower risk of prostate cancer compared to men who ate less than 1 serving of tomato products per week.'' Also impressive are two studies in which men ate large amounts of tomato products in the weeks between being diagnosed with prostate cancer and having their prostates surgically removed; in both studies their PSA levels declined.1

John Kerry's Diet

Following Senator John Kerry's diagnosis of prostate cancer and surgery in 2002, his wife, Teresa, persuaded him to change his diet. According to one account: ''She has worked hard, she said, to educate her husband 'to eat smart'—and to break him of his habit of eating pasta, ice cream, and 'bags of chocolate chip cookies from the Faneuil Hall market in Boston that are full of butter.'

'''He always did eat salad, but he wouldn't eat cooked greens,' she said. 'Now he always has broccoli and loves brussels sprouts.' He also eats more salads and tomatoes, green peas, lentils, beans and other vegetables, she said.''

What is not known is the ingredient in tomatoes that is responsible for this apparent effect. It has been widely assumed to be lyco-pene, a plant carotenoid abundantly present in tomatoes, but in one animal study, tomato powder was more effective than purified lycopene in shrinking the tumors.2 Studies also suggest that tomato sauce, paste, or cooked tomatoes are more effective as anticancer agents than are raw tomatoes.

One should not invest heavily in tomato-farm stocks yet, however. Dietary studies are notoriously difficult to carry out because people do not accurately recall what they ate in the past. More serious is that dietary information in most studies is gathered for men in middle and old age, when in fact the critical dietary intake for prostate cancer development may occur much earlier in life. In addition, Americans are said to consume an average of ninety-one pounds of tomatoes per year, mostly as pasta sauce, ketchup, pizza, chili, and salsa. If tomatoes are truly effective in preventing prostate cancer, why is the disease so prevalent? Because of such problems, the Food and Drug Administration in late 2005 rejected a request by

tomato product manufacturers to advertise their products as having cancer-related benefits.

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