We're closing in on the end of tomato season, and if you needed another reason to eat more of those red, juicy flavor bombs, read on. As if tomatoes weren't already good enough for you, they might bring the added benefit of helping ease the symptoms of an enlarged prostate—including middle-of-the-night visits to the bathroom.
Enlarged prostate, often called benign prostatic hyperplasia (BPH), is a condition that affects 40 to 50 percent of men in their 50s, and more than 80 percent of men over 80. As the prostate enlarges, it can press on the urethra and cause urination problems and feelings of discomfort and pain. That can mean "having to go frequently," and lead to disrupted sleep. You've probably seen ads for Cialis, which is a double-whammy pill that treats both erectile dysfunction and enlarged prostate.
Well, the chemical in tomatoes that could help prevent nighttime urination only addresses one of those symptoms. Lycopene is an antioxidant that imparts tomatoes with their distinct red color, and a study has suggested that it might also help treat BPH.
According to Cambridge News, a London urologist, Hiten Patel, is teaming up with a Cambridge company called CamNutra Ltd. to conduct an observational study of 100 male volunteers suffering from BPH to build upon earlier research and see if its own lycopene supplement, Ateronon XY, might alleviate their symptoms. The idea is that rather than having to take a drug with a grab bag of side effects, a simple side effect-free food supplement like Ateronon XY—a "tomato pill"—could potentially do the job.
The relationship between lycopene and the prostate doesn't end there. Lycopene has also been studied to see if it might play some role in treating prostate cancer. The National Institutes of Health say that in lab studies, lycopene has altered the way cells divide, leading to less cancer cell growth. However, the NIH says that clinical trials of whether lycopene lowers cancer risk have been mixed, and it's too early to draw any conclusions about lycopene's promise.
The NIH says that lycopene is found in apricots, guavas and watermelons as well, but the most "bioavailable"—usable by the body—natural form of lycopene is found in processed tomato products such as tomato pastes and purees. Fat also seems to make lycopene more readily usable by the body, as tomatoes cooked in olive oil led to better lycopene absorption than tomatoes cooked without. All of that is incredible news, suggesting that in some twisted way, pepperoni pizza is kind of healthy. Rejoice!
In somewhat related news, a lot of people swear by peeing on their tomatoes as a sort of fertilizer, like this blog post "Why I Pee On My Tomatoes (and you should, too)" and this post on Popular Science, which cites a study from Finland (of course) in which human urine helped produce 4.2 times more tomatoes than plants that didn't get a pee treatment. So that's something to think about.