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New Genetically Enhanced Tomato Contains Extra Cancer-Fighting Strength

Scientists have announced the development of a new tomato that is even healthier than traditional varieties -- one that contains as much as three and a half times more of the cancer-fighting antioxidant, lycopene. "This is one of the first examples of increasing the nutritional value of food through biotechnology," said Avtar Handa, professor of horticulture at Purdue University. "In fact, it may be the first example of using biotechnology to increase the nutritional value of a fruit."
Lycopene is a pigment that gives tomatoes their characteristic red color. It is called an antioxidant because, in the body, it captures electrically charged oxygen molecules that can damage tissue. Lycopene has been of particular interest since 1995 when a six-year study by Harvard University of nearly 48,000 men found that those who ate at least 10 servings of foods per week containing tomatoes were 45 percent less likely to develop prostate cancer. Subsequent research found that lycopene also reduces the amount of so-called "bad" cholesterol, and therefore may also lower the risk of heart disease.
Handa says he is especially excited about the new tomato because the same technique might also be used to increase the amount of antioxidants in other foods. The research was published in the June issue of Nature Biotechnology.
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The Biotech Advantage 06/26/2002