London: The humble tomato can provide you the best defence against skin damage, as it helps protect the skin from sunburn and ageing caused by sunlight exposure, a new study has claimed.
A team at the Newcastle University in the UK found that an ingredient in tomato called lycopene, the natural pigment that makes tomatoes red, helps protect against sunburn and skin ageing caused by the ultra-violate rays in sunlight.
The age-defying ingredient is found in highest levels in processed or cooked tomatoes used in ketchup, paste, soup and juice, the researchers said.
Prof Mark Birch-Machin, a dermatologist who led the study, said: "Eating tomatoes will not make you invincible in the sun, but it may be a useful addition to sun protection along with sunscreen, shade and clothing."
"The protective effect of tomatoes on our mitochondria -- a membrance linked to skin ageing -- is important as they are the energy producers in all our body cells including skin,"
Prof Birch-Machin said.

In the study, presented at the Royal Society of Medicine in London, women eating a diet rich in processed tomatoes had increased skin protection, as seen by a reduction in skin redness and less DNA damage from ultraviolet (UV) exposure.
Researchers compared the skin of 20 women, half of whom were given five tablespoons (55g) of standard tomato paste with 10g of olive oil every day for 12 weeks. The effects on their skin were compared with remaining volunteers, aged between 21 and 47, eating just olive oil for the same length of time. The volunteers were exposed to UV rays found in sunlight at the beginning and end of the trial.   

It's found significant improvement in the skin's ability to protect itself against UV in those who ate tomato paste. Compared with the other women, the tomato-eating group had 33 percent more protection against sunburn in the form of less redness.

The researchers calculated that protection offered by the tomato paste to be equivalent to a sunscreen with a sun protection factor (SPF) of 1.3. Skin samples taken from groups before and after trial showed an increase in levels of procollagen, a molecule which gives skin its structure and loss of which leads to skin ageing and lack of elasticity.
There was also less damage to mitochondrial DNA in the skin which is linked to skin ageing. "Therefore being kind to our mitochondria is likely to contribute to improved skin health, which in turn may have an anti-ageing effect," Prof Birch-Machin added.


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