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Eating a tomato-rich diet may reduce postmenopausal women's breast cancer risk, according to a new study.

Researchers at Rutgers University tested tomato-heavy vs. soy-heavy diets on 70 postmenopausal women. For the first 10 weeks, the women ate a diet full of tomatoes and tomato-based products. They had to consume a minimum of 25 mg of lycopene a day, an antioxidant found in tomatoes and some other fruits and vegetables. For the next 10 weeks, they had to eat at least 40 grams of soy protein a day. They were asked to refrain from eating any tomato or soy products two weeks prior to the study.

The scientists found that the women showed a 9% increase in adiponectin levels after following the tomato-heavy diet for 10 weeks. Adiponectin is a fat- and blood sugar-regulating hormone. (The risk for breast cancer increases in postmenopausal women along with their body mass index.) The effect was more prominent in women who had a lower BMI to begin with.

The soy-heavy diet actually led to a reduction in adiponectin levels. Low levels are linked to increased risk of obesity and insulin resistance and, thus, increased breast cancer risk.

Lead researcher Adana Llanos said that the advantages of eating a tomato-rich diet are clear, even if it is only for a short period.

“Eating fruits and vegetables, which are rich in essential nutrients, vitamins, minerals and phytochemicals such as lycopene, conveys significant benefits,” she said, according to Medical News Today. “Based on this data, we believe regular consumption of at least the daily recommended servings of fruits and vegetables would promote breast cancer prevention in an at-risk population.”

The study was published in the Journal of Clinical Endocrinology and Metabolism.

Previous studies have linked tomato consumption to reductions in the risk for stroke and prostate cancer.

According to the National Cancer Institute, women in the United States have a 12% risk of developing breast cancer at some point in their lives. This risk increases with age.

Yes, spaghetti sauce counts!


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