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Super tomato in fight against cancer

27th October 2008

A team of scientists in Norwich have created purple tomatoes which could be used to prevent cancer.

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The tomatoes were created by adding two genes from the snapdragon flower in order to increase the levels of an antioxidant pigment known as anthocyanin.

The amount of anthocyanins turned the tomatoes a deep shade of purple.

Their research, which appeared in Nature Biotechnology, showed that when mice (engineered to be vulnerable to cancer) were given the purple tomatoes in their diet they had a longer lifespan.

Anthocyanins, which are found at "high levels" in some berries can reduce the progression of colon cancer cells. In addition they are believed to help prevent heart disease, act as anti-inflammatories and help eyesight.

The team, who work at the John Innes Centre in Norwich, are looking at methods to add compounds which boost health to fruit and vegetables.

Professor Cathie Martin, from the centre, said: "Most people do not eat five portions of fruits and vegetables a day, but they can get more benefit from those they do eat if common fruit and veg can be developed that are higher in bioactive compounds."

She added: "This is one of the first examples of metabolic engineering that offers the potential to promote health through diet by reducing the impact of chronic disease."

The team are now planning to carry out test on human subjects.

 

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