(NaturalNews) The health benefits previously believed to come from the lycopene in tomatoes may actually come from different phytocompounds altogether, according to a new study conducted by researchers from the University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign and published in the journal Nutrition Research.
Researchers fed male rats a diet containing tomato powder for 30 days, then analyzed which compounds accumulated in the animals' prostate glands and livers. They found that in addition to lycopene, phytoene (PE) and phytofluene (PF) also accumulated in both glands.
PF concentrated more in the liver than PE or lycopene did, whereas lycopene concentrated most in the prostate, followed by PF and then PE.
In a follow-up experiment, the researchers fed the rats either a single dose of PE or a single dose of PF. In both groups, the concentrations of the chemicals in all tissues examined increased, with the exception of the adrenal gland.
"Results from this work provide a better understanding of relative PE and PF tissue accumulation, compared to lycopene," said lead author Jessica Campbell.
Lycopene is most well known for the role it might play in preventing prostate cancer. Prostate cancer is the most common cancer in men in the United States, and is the second most lethal cancer, behind lung cancer. Prostate cancer is estimated to kill 200,000 people around the world each year, with 500,000 new cases yearly. The incidence of prostate cancer has increased by 1.7 percent over the past 15 years.
The FDA has approved claims that tomatoes reduce the risk of gastric, ovarian, pancreatic and prostate cancers. But the FDA has raised doubt as to the effectiveness of lycopene alone in protecting against cancers, saying that the evidence does not support this claim. Instead, the agency believes that tomatoes' protective effects come from either a different compound, such as PE or PF, or a synergy between various ingredients.
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