phytochemicals Phytochemicals

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Solanum lycopersicum

What is tomato?

The tomato is perennial plant but usually grown as an annual plant. The tomato plant can reach up to 3 meter. The stems are soft and haired. The tomato leaves are 10 to 30 cm long and have 5 to 9 leaflets. The small yellow flowers have five pointed lobes on the corolla. The tomato fruits are green when unripe and become deep red when ripe. There are also yellow, orange, green and brown varieties. The shape can vary from small cherry tomatoes, pear shaped tomatoes to large irregular shaped tomatoes.

Parts used

Only the tomato fruits are eaten or used as ingredient for food products. The other parts of the tomato plant are toxic.


These are typical phytochemicals found in tomato: phytoene, phytofluene, beta-carotene, flavonoids, carotenoids, lycopene, quercetin, polyphenols, kaempferol.

Benefits of tomato

Lycopene is the main phytochemicals of the tomato and most health benefits of the tomato are attributed to lycopene. Tomatoes and lycopene have been in the news due many studies linking tomato consumption to reduced risk of cancer. In 1995 dr. E.Giovannucci was the first to examine the relationship between carotenoids and prostate cancer risk. This epidemiological study entitled "Carotenoids and Retinol in Relation to Risk of Prostate Cancer" was published in the Journal of the National Cancer Institute, Vol. 87, No. 23, December 6, 1995. He found that only lycopene consumption was linked to lower risk of prostate cancer.

In 1999, Kucuk O. et al presented during the meeting of the American Association for Cancer Research a paper entitled "Lycopene supplementation in men with localized prostate cancer modulates grade and volume of prostatic intraepithelial neoplasia and tumor, level of serum PSA and biomarkers of cell growth, differentiation and apoptosis". In this study, a more direct relationship between the consumption of lycopene and prostate cancer was shown.

Lycopene protects against cancer by activating phase II enzymes, which protect against cancer. Lycopene increased the production of these enzymes by causing the expression of a reporter gene called luciferase. Tomato contains many other phytochemicals, mainly carotenoids and flavonols, which have antioxidant activity and which in combination with lycopene may contribute to the health benefits of the tomato.

Other facts

The tomato belongs to the family of nightshades or Solanaceae or nightshade family. The tomato is native to Central and South America. The tomato is a popular and versatile food. Only the fruits of tomato plant can be eaten since the leaves contain toxic alkaloids.

Other names

Golden apple, love apple

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