The humble tomato may hold the key to good health. Food scientists are discovering ever new benefits of eating tomatoes - whether fresh, in pasta sauces or in supplement form.

Why do I need tomato supplements?

Tomatoes are bursting with nutrients. They get their colour from lycopene which is a powerful antioxidant believed to be protective against heart disease, cancer and other diseases. Antioxidants protect against free radicals which are dangerous particles that damage DNA and other cells in the body causing us to age and get ill.

Tomatoes are so nutritious that the Royal Society of Medicine even ran a health forum specifically on the subject: ‘tomatoes and health’ where academics revealed how tomatoes protect against certain cancers, cardiovascular disease and the brittle-bone condition osteoporosis. Tomatoes were also recommended for good skin health, lowering blood pressure and to improve fertility.

Men at risk of prostate cancer are advised to eat tomatoes and watermelon as these are the best sources of lycopene. Tomatoes may also help halt the spread of breast cancer. In one study lycopene and two other tomato nutrients: phytoene and phytofluene seemed to stop the proliferation of cancer cells when given in high doses.

Researchers from the University of Toronto* similarly found that a dose of lycopene slowed down the action of cells that destroy bone mass making it protective against osteoporosis.

Lycopene consumption is also thought to lower ‘bad’ cholesterol levels in the blood.

Interestingly, cooked tomatoes are better for your than fresh ones. This is because cooking substantially increases the tomato’s lycopene content. But on the downside, cooking tomatoes means they lose their vitamin C content. Lycopene ingested naturally is poorly absorbed by the body. Supplements are a good alternative, especially if you hate the taste and texture of tomatoes. In fact tomatoes are so unpopular that some ‘mater-haters’ have dedicated entire websites and blogs to the topic!

Can too much tomato be bad for you?

There doesn’t appear to be such a thing as too many tomatoes. Large doses of lycopene rich tomato supplement may cause some indigestion so it is important to stick to the dose stated on the bottle. Typical doses range from 2-30mg for up to six months.