Though summers in Delhi initially offer a welcome break from the misty foggy days, the abundance of sunshine soon leads to innumerable skin and hair problems. Among the prominent are sunburn and premature aging caused by the harmful UV rays.
Now, a study says that the humble tomato can protect you against sunburn and skin-aging. 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 aging caused by the UV rays in sunlight.
The age-defying ingredient is found in highest levels in processed or cooked tomatoes used in ketchup, paste, soup and juice, 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.’
According to him, the protective effect of tomatoes on our mitochondria — a membrane linked to skin aging — is important as they are the energy producers in all our body cells including skin. 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.
We asked city doctors what they think about the study. ‘Lycopene content in tomatoes increases when tomatoes are cooked. So a tomato ketchup or paste has more lycopene than a raw tomato. There are 8-42 micro grams per gm lycopene in a raw tomato and 60-130 in cooked form. It is the reason for tomato acting as an anti-cancerous agent as well,’ said Dr Ajita Bagai, senior consultant, Dermatology and Aesthetic Medicine, Max hospitals. ‘The recent study that proves that eating tomato paste decreases the chances of sunburn only provides an added benefit, it is not a substitute for sunscreen,’ she added.
‘Lycopene leads to improved skin health, which in turn may have an anti-aging effect. One research also showed that the tomato diet boosted the level of procollagen in the skin significantly and these increasing levels suggested a potential reversal of the skin-aging process. Procollagen is the molecule which gives the skin its structure and therefore skin aging and loss of elasticity may be attributed to the decline or loss of procollagen,’ informs Dr Varun Katyal, consultant dermatologist and cosmetologist, The Skin Centre.
Dr Pankaj Chaturvedi, Senior Consultant Dermatologist & Dermatosurgeon, Adiva Aesthetics, believes that the possible explanation for Italians being famous for their shiny skin devoid of sunburn and wrinkles — the pizza and spaghetti sauce!
‘One can use tomato juice and pulp for combating excess oil production by sebaceous glands. The juice when rubbed on skin, penetrates into pores and cleans it of all impurities,’ he said.
Tomatoes also serve as a natural skin-lightening agent. You can gently rub a cut tomato on your face to bleach your skin. Also, mix buttermilk and tomato juice and apply it over the sunburnt areas.
Tomatoes also reverse your skin’s aging process, says Dr Chaturvedi. By eating 10 tablespoons of tomato puree a day, you can get younger supple skin without having to buy expensive creams. Tomatoes are rich not only in lycopene, but also have other protective compounds — both discovered and undiscovered — that likely have powerful heart disease and cancer-preventive effects.
So be sure to eat both fresh, raw tomatoes and cooked tomatoes to make the most of tomatoes this summer.