EU funds research into lycopene's health benefits

Lycopene, the red pigment in tomatoes, is considered so important to human health that it is the subject for a pan-European project funded by the EU.

Biochemist Gordon Lowe of Liverpool John Moores University, who is leading the laboratory studies, told delegates at the Tomato Conference that the project aimed to determine the benefits of lycopene in preventing or treating cardiovascular diseases.

As well as assessing lycopene's biological activity, research will investigate how different tomato varieties, their growing and handling, and tomato processing affect lycopene levels. Work will include the development of a tomato-based product with a high lycopene content.

Tomato Growers' Association executive officer and consultant Gerry Hayman, who has studied lycopene content of tomatoes in an HDC project, said that despite some claims that processed tomatoes were richer in lycopene, such products were often less healthy in terms of salt content.

"Cooking tomatoes is what releases it," he said. "We have an opportunity to tell people to eat fresh tomatoes that are high in lycopene."


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