Can eating tomatoes help to prevent—and even treat—stomach cancer? Findings recently published in the Journal of Cellular Physiology indicate that the answer to that question is yes! Although previous research had suggested that certain compounds found in tomatoes (particularly lycopene, a carotenoid that gives the fruit its bright red color) may have cancer-fighting properties, few studies considered the possible anti-cancer effects of whole tomatoes. Professor Antonio Giardano, director of the Sbarro Institute for Molecular Medicine at Temple University in Philadelphia, and his colleagues sought to remedy that.
A Novel Approach to Treating a Deadly Disease
Study co-author Giardano and his fellow researchers tested the effects of whole food extracts from two varieties of tomatoes, San Marzano and Corbarino, on stomach cancer
cell lines. They found that both extracts prevented the growth of stomach cancer cells and
decrease the destructive capacity of the cancer cells by interfering with cell migration—the process by which cancer cells spread from the primary tumor to surrounding tissue. They also found that the extracts lead to apoptosis, meaning they caused the cancer cells to self-destruct!
Stomach cancer is an aggressive disease, with one of the highest mortality indexes in the world. The American Cancer Society predicts that approximately 28,000 new cases will be diagnosed in the United States alone this year. Also referred to as gastric cancer, it’s most common in older adults. Over half of all the individuals who receive diagnoses of stomach cancer are 65 years of age or older.
The Whole Tomato is Greater Than the Sum of Its Compunds
The researchers emphasized that the anti-cancer effects of the tomato extracts did not stem from any one compound. “Their anti-tumoral effect seem not to be related to specific components, such as lycopene,” says study co-author Daniela Barone, of the Oncology Research Center of Mercogliano in Italy. According to Barone, the results suggest that “tomatoes should be considered in the entirety.”
Barone and her fellow researchers believe that their data indicates that dietary intake of tomatoes (specifically San Marzano and Corbarino tomatoes) could be useful not only as a nutritional method for prevent cancer, but also as a vital component of a cancer treatment plan.
Which is Better: Whole Foods or Extracts?
While the study results came from tomato extracts, and the researchers did not comment specifically on the merits of extracts versus whole food sources, separate studies indicate that whole food sources on the way to go.
Clinical trials comparing the efficacy of tomato extracts to whole tomatoes in addressing risk factors associated with heart disease found that consuming the tomatoes themselves is the best option. As one such study noted, more targeted research into this question is needed. If you hope to use tomatoes to prevent or treat stomach cancer, we recommend consulting with a practitioner with experienced in using food to restore and promote health.