Scientific studies show that tomatoes can protect both the liver and brain from damage caused by alcohol consumption.
The effects of an evening with a few alcoholic beverages are familiar to many of us.
While moderate alcohol consumption may be beneficial to long-term health, excessive drinking certainly is not.
Tomatoes may not save you from the headache, dizziness, and bloodshot eyes that are the telltale signs of the morning after the big night out, but research shows that tomatoes can shield your brain and liver from the havoc that alcohol wreaks on these organs.
Enzymes in the liver break down the alcohol that we drink. This causes oxidative damage to liver cells and widespread inflammation.
Dr. Xiang-Dong Wang – director of the nutrition and cancer biology laboratory at the Friedman School of Nutrition Science and Policy at Tufts University in Boston, MA – and his team
The experiments used the equivalent of 100 grams of alcohol consumption, which is approximately 7 standard alcoholic drinks, daily for 4 weeks. This mimics chronic, excessive alcohol intake in humans.
Three different tomato products were tested:
- tomato powder, which is nutritionally equivalent to whole tomato
- tomato extract, which contains only fat-soluble components
lycopene, which is the red pigment that gives tomatoes their color and a known antioxidant
Tomato powder, but not extract or purified lycopene, reduced the effects of alcohol damage in over 90 percent of the rats.
These results are in line with the team’s earlier
However, the liver is not the only organ affected by the alcohol that we drink.
Whether alcohol is good for long-term health or not, even modest intake causes damage to brain cells. Oxidative damage and inflammation are once again thought to be the culprits. Could tomatoes come to the rescue?
Ross Grant, a clinical associate professor of medicine at the University of Sydney in Australia, and his research team
But treating such cells with lycopene for 3.5 hours before exposing them to alcohol significantly reduced the damage.
Interestingly, purified lycopene was protective to brain cells, while whole tomatoes were needed to see similar effects in the liver.
In Dr. Wang’s study, the team used tomato powder at a concentration equal to a 70-kilogram man consuming 12.46 milligrams of lycopene per day. The average intake in the U.S. is around 9.4 milligrams per day.
But the authors explain that levels such as the one used in their study are easily achievable by “eating four medium-sized tomatoes” or “one third of a cup of tomato sauce” daily.
The best way to avoid the damaging effects of alcohol is, of course, to abstain from drinking it.
However, should you wish to indulge in a drink or two, a daily dose of tomatoes certainly seems to go some way toward protecting your brain and liver – whichever method of consumption you choose.