Tomatoes found to fight sun damage

April 28, 2008

Tomatoes could be the new weapon in the fight against sun damage to the skin, research at the Universities of Newcastle and Manchester has revealed. According to a study presented at the British Society for Investigative Dermatology this month, eating tomato paste could help protect against sunburn and sun-induced skin ageing.

In the study, researchers compared the skin of 20 people, half of whom were given five tablespoons (55g) of standard tomato paste with 10g of olive oil every day, with the other half receiving just olive oil, over a period of 12 weeks.

The skin was exposed to ultraviolet (UV) light - which is found naturally in sunlight - at the beginning and end of the trial. The team found significant improvements in the skin’s ability to protect itself against UV in the group who had been eating tomato paste.

Professor Lesley Rhodes, dermatologist at the University of Manchester, says, “The tomato diet boosted the level of procollagen in the skin significantly. These increasing levels suggest potential reversal of the skin ageing process. This is in addition to the significant reduction in sunburn.

“These weren’t huge amounts of tomato we were feeding the group. It was the sort of quantity you would easily manage if you eating a lot of tomato-based meals.

“People should not think that tomatoes in any way can replace sun creams, but they may be a good additive. If you can improve your protection through your diet then over several years, this may have a significant effect.”

Many of the harmful effects of UV light are due to the excess production of harmful molecules known as ‘reactive oxygen species’ which can damage important skin structures. Sun damage from UV exposure includes premature wrinkles and skin cancer.

The tomato’s key skin saving property is a powerful antioxidant called ‘lycopene’, which is able to neutralise or ‘quench’ the harmful molecules.

Lycopene is the bright red pigment found in a number of red fruit and vegetables, but with its highest levels in cooked tomatoes. As tomato paste contains a high concentration of cooked tomatoes, it is an ideal source of lycopene.

Compared to the control group, the group who had eaten the paste were found to have 33 per cent more protection against sunburn, which can lead to skin cancer. The researchers calculated the protection offered by the tomato paste to be equivalent to a sunscreen with a sun protection factor (SPF) of 1.3.

By looking at the effects on skin ageing by studying skin samples taken from both groups, before and after trial, the Manchester team discovered that the tomato diet had boosted the skin’s levels of procollagen, a molecule which gives the skin its structure and loss of which leads to skin ageing and lack of elasticity.

Meanwhile, collaborators at Newcastle University found that the lycopene had reduced damage to mitochondrial DNA in the skin, which is also believed to be linked with skin ageing.

Professor Mark Birch-Machin, dermatology scientist from Newcastle University, says, “Eating tomatoes will not make you invincible in the sun, but it may be a useful addition to sun protection along with sunscreens, shade and clothing.

“The protective effect of eating tomatoes on our mitochondria is important as they are the energy producers in all our body cells including skin. Therefore being kind to our mitochondria is likely to contribute to improved skin health, which in turn may have an anti-ageing effect.”

Nina Goad of the British Association of Dermatologists says “While the protection offered by lycopene is low, this research suggests that a diet containing high levels of antioxidant rich tomatoes could provide an extra tool in sun protection.”

The team is now looking to start a new, longer-term study into the protective effects of lycopene on the skin.

Source: Newcastle University

Explore further: Allergy potential of strawberries and tomatoes depends on the variety

Related Stories

Allergy potential of strawberries and tomatoes depends on the variety

July 13, 2018
The incidence of food allergies has increased in recent decades: It affects three to four percent of the adult population and five percent of children. Tomatoes (Solanum lycopersicum) and strawberries (Fragaria x ananassa) ...

Study identifies genes responsible for diversity of human skin colors

October 12, 2017
Human populations feature a broad palette of skin tones. But until now, few genes have been shown to contribute to normal variation in skin color, and these had primarily been discovered through studies of European populations.

New stats reveal almost half of the UK are unaware of link between diet and cancer development

February 5, 2015
Surprising new statistics reveal that 41% of the British population are oblivious to the role that diet plays in the development of cancer - and even those with a family history of the disease are failing to consume potentially ...

Fresh faced: Looking younger for longer

January 10, 2014
Newcastle University researchers have identified an antioxidant Tiron, which offers total protection against some types of sun damage and may ultimately help our skin stay looking younger for longer.

Health Check: Can you treat the common cold?

May 6, 2014
With symptoms including a runny nose, sore throat, sneezing, cough, headaches and fever, the common cold can leave you feeling rotten for up to two weeks.

Recommended for you

Revenge of a forgotten medical 'genius'

June 30, 2018
It's not an uncommon fate for a pioneering scientist: languishing unrecognised in his time before dying in obscurity. But as his 200th birthday approaches, the life-saving work of a Hungarian obstetrician is finally getting ...

Yes, you can put too much chlorine in a pool

June 2, 2018
(HealthDay)—Before you take a dip in the pool this summer, be sure there's not too much chlorine in the water.

Best of Last Year—The top Medical Xpress articles of 2017

December 20, 2017
It was a good year for medical research as a team at the German center for Neurodegenerative Diseases, Magdeburg, found that dancing can reverse the signs of aging in the brain. Any exercise helps, the team found, but dancing ...

Pickled in 'cognac', Chopin's heart gives up its secrets

November 26, 2017
The heart of Frederic Chopin, among the world's most cherished musical virtuosos, may finally have given up the cause of his untimely death.

Sugar industry withheld evidence of sucrose's health effects nearly 50 years ago

November 21, 2017
A U.S. sugar industry trade group appears to have pulled the plug on a study that was producing animal evidence linking sucrose to disease nearly 50 years ago, researchers argue in a paper publishing on November 21 in the ...

Female researchers pay more attention to sex and gender in medicine

November 7, 2017
When women participate in a medical research paper, that research is more likely to take into account the differences between the way men and women react to diseases and treatments, according to a new study by Stanford researchers.

1 comment

Adjust slider to filter visible comments by rank

Display comments: newest first

Sharke
not rated yet May 02, 2009
The figures just don't add up as far as I'm concerned. The researchers say that eating tomato paste gives you 33% more protection against sunburn, then go on to say that it's the equivalent of a 1.5 SPF sun screen.

I'm sorry but a 1.5 SPF is virtually negligible and will in no way give you a 33% better protection against the sun. The Skin cancer society recommends at least 30 SPF.

Please sign in to add a comment. Registration is free, and takes less than a minute. Read more

Click here to reset your password.
Sign in to get notified via email when new comments are made.