Tomatoes, lycopene and cancer prevention
A study just out from Ohio State University suggests that if you're interested in taking lycopene for antioxidant and possible cancer prevention benefits, orange tomatoes are better than red ones. From the Columbus Dispatch article (registration may be required):
Lycopene absorption from the tangerine tomatoes was 2 1 /2 times higher than that absorbed from typical red tomato varieties.
"ThatÂs what is so dramatic," said Steven Schwartz, an Ohio State food chemist and toxicologist who is head of the research project..The new study grew out of a discovery made several years ago by Schwartz and other researchers that our blood contains an abundance of a type of lycopene called cis-lycopene...Cis-lycopenes are found in tangerine tomatoes. Trans-lycopenes are found in red tomatoes...Despite having fewer lycopenes, tangerine tomatoes far outshined the red variety in terms of lycopene absorption...The study was published in the February issue of the Journal of Agricultural and Food Chemistry."
Lycopene is under investigation for a possible role in helping to prevent prostate cancer. One new study suggests it is not effective in prostate cancers that are no longer influenced by androgen hormones (as often occurs in late-stage disease), but work is ongoing.
One other interesting thing - the Dispatch article quoted earlier included a table on lycopene content of various vegetable preparations, and a single average serving of tomato sauce contained as much lycopene as a "high potency" expensive supplement capsule. So maybe it'd be a good idea to grow your own tangerine tomatoes and use them to make sauce for cooking.