Tomatoes have already been credited with a host of health benefits – and now another one can be added to the list.
Lycopene, the antioxidant which makes tomatoes red, has been found to reduce age-related enlargement of the prostate and thereby pressure on the bladder.
The revelation will bring comfort to those men troubled by the need to visit the toilet frequently, especially at night.
Tomatoes – packed with vitamins, natural anti-inflammatories and other goodies – have been previously identified as helping to combat cardiovascular disease, stroke and prostate cancer.
The latest benefit emerged from research in Queensland, Australia.
A three-month study was carried out into the effect of lycopene in combination with other natural compounds.
A total of 57 men aged 40 to 80 were given pills containing active ingredients or identical dummy tablets. They were not told which ones they were taking.
Researchers found that the number of night-time visits to the toilet was cut by more than a third and overall bladder function was substantially improved.
Meanwhile, evidence has been growing about the benefits of a recently launched British supplement called Ateronon containing an artificial version of lycopene.
Research presented by Cambridge University at the prestigious American Heart Association showed it had a unique effect in improving blood vessel flexibility and reducing hardening of the arteries.
Ian Wilkinson, director of the university’s clinical trials unit, is confident that similar benefits will be gained in reducing the risk of prostate cancer and slowing the disease in men already diagnosed.
‘Ateronon could be more beneficial than natural lycopene because it is more easily absorbed by the body,’ Mr Wilkinson said. ‘We are designing a trial to prove that.’
Luis Vitetta, also a director at the university, said lycopene has a similar chemical structure to finasteride, the main drug used to treat benign enlargement of the prostate.
‘That may be the reason for the effect,’ he said.
A second newly-published study in Chicago has shown beneficial proteins in prostate cells were boosted when exposed to lycopene.
Project leader Richard van Breemen said a long-term study was needed on lycopene as it took time to have an effect.