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Tomatoes may provide the best natural defence to keeping skin looking young and safe from sun damage according to research at the Universities of Newcastle and Manchester.

In the study, researchers compared the skin of 20 people, aged between 21 & 47. Half of whom were given 55g of standard tomato paste, over a period of 12 weeks. The skin was exposed to ultraviolet (UV) light - at the beginning and end of the trial. The team found significant improvements in the skin’s ability to protect itself against UV in the group who had been eating tomato paste.

Compared with the other women, the tomato-eating group had 33% more protection against sunburn in the form of less redness.
Skin samples taken from groups also showed an increase in levels of procollagen, a molecule which gives our 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 also believed to be linked to skin ageing.

The age-defying ingredient is lycopene

Lycopene is the bright red pigment that makes tomatoes red - but with its highest levels in cooked tomatoes used in Ketchup, Soup, Paste and Juice, which are more easily absorbed into the body. Lycopene is a powerful antioxidant, which can reduce the inflammatory response to UV damage by neutralising harmful molecules that are produced in the skin as a result. Sun damage from UV exposure includes premature wrinkles and skin cancer.

Previous research suggests 8oz of tomato juice, 150gm of pasta sauce, or one lycopene tablet a day are sufficient to boost blood lycopene levels.

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. Spaghetti Bolognese anyone?!

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