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New Super Purple Tomatoes

Genetically modified tomatoes that are rich in purple antioxidants called anthocyanins cause cancer prone mice to live longer. Tests on mice that lacked the p53 gene, which helps protect against cancer, showed the mice that were fed the purple tomatoes lived 30% longer than those who ate only normal red tomatoes.

British researchers from the John Innes Centre, Norwich, England, published their results this week in Nature Biotechnology. They were investigating ways to increase the levels of antioxidants in common fruits and vegetables. Tomatoes naturally contain the beneficial antioxidant compounds, lycopene and flavonoids. By taking two genes from the snapdragon plant and turning them on in the tomato, they were able to create a genetically modified fruit that added the antioxidant, anthocyanin.

The researchers created the purple tomatoes by linking the two genes from the snapdragon flower with a regular tomato plant. The anthocyanins give the tomatoes a purple color. Although the results were preliminary, scientists are hopeful that the new purple tomatoes may help cancer patients in the future.

Anthocyanins offer protection against certain cancers, cardiovascular disease and age-related degenerative diseases. There is also evidence that anthocyanins have anti-inflammatory activity and hinder obesity and diabetes. Research has shown that natural dark purple pigments in fruits, vegetables and berries have beneficial health benefits. Other powerhouse fruits that contain anthocyanins are blackberries, blueberries, cranberries and currants.

This is more evidence that what you eat can have a profound impact on your health and longevity. Since most people do not eat the recommended five fruits and vegetables a day, it is exciting to see new techniques that may boost the benefits of the fruits we eat.

The research was funded by the EU and by JIC's core strategic grant from Biotechnology and Biological Sciences Research Council (BBSRC).


K said…
I find that kind of funny, considering snapdragons are toxic, for the most part. :D
Toni Brayer, MD said…
k: Actually snapdragons are non toxic and safe for animals or children to eat.
Anonymous said…
This is an interesting blog. I knew about blueberries and blackberries but not purple tomatoes helping with camcer. I will look for them at the Farmers Market and certain grocery stores that might have them. Maybe purple tomato sauce on pasta. I guess purple bell peppers might have the same value?

Thanks for the great info.!!
K said…
My bad! I mistook snapdragons for foxglove (just because they're from the same family doesn't mean they share everything).
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Anonymous said…
I can't help but be suspicious of genetically modified foods and think that this is a bit of a slippery slope. Rather than encouraging us all to eat more healthily and build up a bigger demand for fresh unmessed with local produce and appreciating that to eat healthily takes some effort we seem to be being offered a quick fix. This could lead to a reliance on genetically modified super foods rather than eating a range of beneficial foods in a good quality overall diet.

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