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Friday, February 6, 2009

A New Purple, Antioxidant Tomato

Scientists were surprised to find out that their experiment with creating a hybrid purple tomato had such a positive outcome on health. The study was published by Nature Biotechnology and was funded by the John Innes Center in Britain. It was led by plant biologist Cathie Martin of the John Innes Center.

Ms. Martin and her colleagues first took tomatoes and genetically engineered them with genes from the snapdragon flower, an annual flower also known as Antirrhinum majus. This infusion caused the tomatoes to create the antioxidant anthocyanin, which is commonly found in blackcurrants and blackberries.

Anthocyanins are known to lower heart disease and help combat cancer, and have even been linked to produce a lower risk of some neurological diseases.

The result was a purple tomato rich in antioxidants that was ready to be fed to mice to determine the effects. The researchers were excited by the results: mice that were genetically engineered to develop cancer lived much longer when fed the purple tomato. In fact, the mice on a standard diet, with and without regular tomatoes, only lived around 142 days, while the mice fed the purple anthocyanin tomato lived an average of 182 days.

The scientists based their study on the fact that berries, specifically blackberries and blackcurrants, contained healthy antioxidants, but that the average person does not eat enough of these foods on a regular basis. They were excited to find out that changing one’s diet could result in much better health.

Specifically, they are researching whether or not these antioxidants can help deter cancerous tumors.

While the study was on mice and not humans, it did produce noteworthy results that lead them to believe that people may be able to increase their health by changing their diet and eating foods that are genetically modified to carry more vitamins and nutrients than regular foods.

For now, it is too soon to tell if these foods can actually reduce the risk of cancer, but plans to do more studies and human-based trials are in the works.

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