I was riding in a cab the other day and the driver said he was at the pool and saw a mom feeding tomato paste to her kids and eating some herself to prevent a sunburn. The mom told him that neither she or her kids had gotten a sunburn since she started doing this.
So, of course, my interest was piqued and I just had to know if science backed this up.
Does Tomato Paste Protect Against Sunburn?
The short answer is yes (gasp!).
Tomatoes are loaded with Lycopene and tomato paste has the highest concentration of it.
Lycopene is one of the 600 carotenoids found in nature. Carotenoids are a broad class of naturally occurring pigments produced by plants, among others. In tomatoes, lycopene is the carotenoid that makes them their vibrant color. In humans, our blood and skin actually have naturally occurring carotenoids.
In a study published by the British Association of Dermatologists, half of participants ate 55g of tomato paste (4 tablespoons), which has about 16mg Lycopene, spread on white bread with 10g of olive oil (2 teaspoons) every day for 12 weeks. The other half of participants ate only 10g olive oil on white bread. Then they exposed them to UV light and took tissue samples.
They concluded that lycopene-rich tomato paste provides significant UV protection and protection against sunburn and even increased procollagen, which helps make collagen, after UV exposure versus those who only ate the olive oil bread.
The BBC performed a study which was broadcast on the news. They exposed a relatively small group of very fair-skinned and sunburn-prone female volunteers to UV rays and took skin samples. Then they had them eat 55g of tomato paste (4 Tablespoons), which has about 16mg of lycopene, every day for 12 weeks and exposed them to UV rays again.
The sample after the 12 weeks showed a 30% increase in sun protection versus the skin samples before tomato paste. They concluded that everyone should wear sunscreen and also eat tomato paste for effective UV protection.
In a study published by Photochemical & Photobiological Sciences, when people ate a carotenoid-rich diet or took carotenoids as supplements for a period of at least 10 weeks, they showed a measured decrease in sensitivity to getting a sunburn versus those that did not consume the carotenoids.
Anti-Aging Benefits from Tomatoes
Free radicals, or reactive oxygen species (ROS), are released when cells are damaged, usually by photodamage or damage from the sun. They cause cell wall damage and contribute greatly to signs of aging, including fine lines and wrinkles, loss of elasticity, and sallow skin. It can also contribute to organ damage adding to the likelihood of developing chronic diseases.
Antioxidants are a must to combat this. They work to seek and destroy free radicals in the bloodstream before they cause damage and also repair cells after the damage has been done.
Lycopene, from tomatoes, gives the highest constant rate of free radical quenching action versus other antioxidants, like Vitamins A and C. But, it gets better, tomatoes are actually full of those vitamins, too. So, all around, tomatoes, especially highly concentrated tomato paste, are fantastic for sun protection, anti-aging, and your overall good health.
Interesting Facts About the Health Benefits of Tomatoes
- No other fruit (yes, tomatoes are a fruit not a vegetable) have as high of a concentration of lycopene
- Lycopene is a carotenoid that has been shown to greatly reduce risks of cancers, coronary disease and cardiovascular diseases
- Tomatoes and garlic together have even greater cancer-fighting effects
- You can get the benefits of tomatoes from raw tomatoes but the heat-processing used to can tomatoes and make sauces and paste actually boosts the amounts of lycopene you eat
- Tomatoes help detoxify the liver, probably because of the chlorine and sulfur found in them
- 540mls, just over 2 cups, or tomato juice can helps keep you healthy for life
To Sum It Up
Tomato paste has been proven to decrease sensitivity to getting a sunburn after consuming it for 10-12 weeks, is a fantastic free radical scavenger which helps reduce signs of aging, and reduces the likelihood of developing many chronic diseases. This is not to say that I’ll be skipping sunscreen, but I’ve definitely started drinking tomato juice daily and adding tomato paste to my meals whenever possible. Hooray for the tomato and bring on the Bloody Mary’s!