The Great Health Benefits Of Tomatoes And Tomato Juice

Glass of fresh tomato juice and tomatoes on a wooden cutting board
Tomatoes and tomato juice. Copyright: grafvision / 123RF Stock Photo

Tomatoes (Solanum lycopersicum L.)  and tomato juice are rich in a great variety of nutrients especially ones termed as micronutrients.  It is one of the most important vegetables in the world. Current production is now well above 141 million tonnes based on current commercial data. It probably rivals potato as the most widely consumed vegetable with an average annual per capita consumption of 12kg although this figure has probably altered since it was last checked (Lugasi et al., 2003).

Nutrition Of Tomato And Tomato Juice 

Tomato is particularly rich in a carotenoid called lycopene which has superior antioxidant benefits that provides numerous health benefits. The lycopene content in a tomato can vary between 1.4 and 6.4 mg per 100g fresh weight. The vitamin C content in a typical portion of tomatoes would provide 40 per cent of the daily recommended dose. There is also plenty of vitamin A for vision, immunity and skin health, and vitamin K which is good for bones growth and maintenance.

There is little difference between organically grown and conventionally grown tomatoes.

Other important nutrients include:-

ß‐carotene, lutein, α‐tocopherol, gamma‐aminobutyric acid, phenolic compounds, certain minerals especially potassium (Caputo et al., 2004) and calcium, and carboxylic acids, including ascorbic, citric, malic, fumaric and oxalic acids (Hernández Suárez et al., 2007).

Esculeoside A is a saponin found in tomatoes. It has been reported to suppress the activity of acyl‐CoA: cholesterol acyltransferase (ACAT), leading to an improvement in dyslipidemia (Nohara, 2010).

Notable Claimed Benefits

(1) Protects against heart disease: lycopene in juice reduces chemical biomarkers like homocysteine for decreased risk of coronary heart disease. High levels of lycopene in the blood are linked to reduced mortality rates in people with the serious condition, metabolic syndrome. This is one of the leading causes of diabetes, stroke and other serious conditions of the body.

(2) Reduces inflammation: research suggests a daily glass of tomato juice significantly reduces inflammatory chemicals for improved health and reduced risk of certain cancers.

(3) Eye health: tomato juice also contains beta-carotene, lutein, and zeaxanthin. These phytonutrients are shown to promote healthy eyes and reduce the risk of degeneration.

(4) Fights cancer: tomato juice contains lycopene and other carotenoids shown to reduce the risk of certain cancers including breast cancer, prostate cancer, and lung cancer.

(5) Improves digestion: nutrient rich tomato juice is shown to improve liver function for better digestion, stimulate regular bowel movements, and promote a healthy colon.

(6) Detoxification : tomato juice is a natural detox indicated to flush harmful toxins from the body. Tomato juice is also a rich source of chlorine and sulphur compounds shown to improve liver and kidney function to better remove these toxins.

What About Tomato Juice Then ?

Well tomato juice is a great product but there is no evidence that it can reduce your risk of heart disease as claimed in a research paper (Odai et al., 2019). In this study, a Japanese research group from the Tokyo Medical and Dental University examined the benefits of drinking unsalted tomato juice. The results are stated to have lowered blood pressure and LDL cholesterol levels in Japanese adults with a risk of cardiovascular disease.

 in this study, 184 male and 297 female participants were provided with as much unsalted tomato juice as they wanted throughout one year. Following completion of the study, the blood pressure of all participants was measured and in 94 of them who had untreated prehypertension or hypertension, there was a significant drop in systolic blood pressure from an average of 141.2 to 137.0 mmHg. The diastolic blood pressure level also dropped on average from 83.3 to 80.9 mmHg. The other major measure was LDL cholesterol level in blood. This dropped in 125 subjects who had high cholesterol levels to begin with and the drop was from 155.o to 149.9 mg/dL. The benefits were the same in both men and women of all age groups.

The main issue is the level of statistical rigor in the experimental design because it was not a randomised controlled trial. The results can only apply to a certain population of Japanese which means it doesn’t stretch to other ethnicities or populations. It must be borne in mind that the study was sponsored by Kikkoman too. It would be nice to think that a popular product like tomato juice could produce such claimed benefits but none of the other factors for good health were properly considered and it seems largely an uncontrolled study.

There is previous research from the same Japanese group in 2015. Here they claimed that drinking unsalted tomato juice over 8 weeks reduced triglyceride levels in the blood of middle-aged women. 

We are always interested in the flavour and how the fruit is looked after (see article) and if you are interested in growing tomatoes please check out our extensive cultivation notes.

References

Caputo, M.Sommella, M.G.Graciani, G.et al. (2004). Antioxidant profiles of corbara small tomatoes during ripening and effects of aqueous extracts on j‐774 cell antioxidant enzymesJournal of Food Biochemistry28, pp. 120. (Article)

Hernández Suárez, M.Rodríguez Rodríguez, E.M. & Díaz Romero, C. (2008). Analysis of organic acid content in cultivars of tomato harvested in Tenerife. European Food Research and Technology226, pp. 423435 (Article)

Hirose, A.Terauchi, M.Tamura, M.Akiyoshi, M.Owa, Y.Kato, K., & Kubota, T. (2015). Tomato juice intake increases resting energy expenditure and improves hypertriglyceridemia in middle‐aged women: An open‐label, single‐arm study. Nutrition Journal1434https://doi.org/10.1186/s12937-015-0021-4

Hsu, Y. M.Lai, C. H.Chang, C. Y.Fan, C. T.Chen, C. T., & Wu, C. H. (2008). Characterizing the lipid‐lowering effects and antioxidant mechanisms of tomato pasteBioscience, Biotechnology, and Biochemistry72, pp. 677685https://doi.org/10.1271/bbb.70402

Lugasi, A.Bíró, L.Hóvárie, J.Sági, K.V.,Brandt, S. & Berna, E. (2003). Lycopene content of foods and lycopene intake in two groups of the Hungarian population. Nutrition Research23, pp. 10351044.

Lumpkin, H. (2005). A comparison of lycopene and other phytochemicals in tomatoes grown under conventional and organic management systems. Technical Bulletin No. 34. AVRDC publication number 05‐623. Shanhua, Taiwan. Pp. 48

Nohara, T.Ono, M.Ikeda, T.Fujiwara, Y., & El‐Asar, M. (2010). The tomato saponin, esculeoside AJournal of Natural Products73, pp. 17341741https://doi.org/10.1021/np100311t

Odai, T. et al. (2019) Unsalted tomato juice intake improves blood pressure and serum low‐density lipoprotein cholesterol level in local Japanese residents at risk of cardiovascular disease. Food Science & Nutrition. https://doi.org/10.1002/fsn3.1066.

Yanai, H.Adachi, H.Kawaguchi, A.Hakoshima, M.Waragai, Y.Harigae, T., … Sako, A. (2017). The anti‐atherosclerotic effects of tomatoesFunctional Foods in Health and Disease7, pp. 411428https://doi.org/10.31989/ffhd.v7i6.351

  

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