UC expert wonders out loud about lycopene in tomatoes

Aug 25, 2008

Continuing the tomato trend from my last blog post, the loss of nutrients in tomatoes from the canning process was pondered in another San Francisco Chronicle article.

For this one, freelancer Deborah Rich spoke to Diane Barrett of the UC Davis Center for Fruit and Vegetable Quality.

There is controversy, Rich wrote, about the fate of fat-soluble nutrients like the antioxidant lycopene in tomato processing. Studies suggest that processing increases the levels of lycopene relative to the naturally occurring levels in fresh tomatoes, the Chron story says.

Barrett told the reporter she isn't convinced that processing can cause tomatoes to synthesize greater amounts of lycopene. Instead, she says that processing may make lycopene easier to measure.

"Are we, with heat, just loosening the matrix of the plant and allowing us in the laboratory to analyze a higher content of that particular nutrient?" Barrett was quoted. "My scientist hat makes me wonder."

Perhaps the change is due to an alteration in lycopene's molecular structure, as suggested by the Ohio State study I referred to in the earlier blog post.

By Jeannette E. Warnert
Author - Communications Specialist