Purple tomatoes

By • Published: January 26th, 2009
Category: Health in a Heartbeat

Imagine getting all the vitamins and minerals you need for the day from just one tomato. Scientists are getting closer to that day through the use of agricultural biotechnology.

For years, advocates of the science have sketched a vision of the future where genetically engineered foods provide greater nutrition and even help prevent chronic disease. These scientists hope to design foods that will thrive in salty soil or hot or dry climates, greatly expanding the land available for agricultural use.

Sound like a science fiction movie? Researchers took a dramatic step closer recently with the introduction of a purple tomato that has high levels of beneficial anthocyanins [an-tho-sigh-a-nins], antioxidants known to neutralize potentially harmful free radicals in the body and reduce the risk of heart disease and cancer.

The British creators of the purple tomato tested their fruit on cancer-susceptible mice. Rodents that ate a diet of ten percent powdered purple tomato in their pellets lived significantly longer than those eating powdered normal red tomatoes.

The genes for the purple tomato came from snapdragons. But don’t plan on picking up a purple tomato from your local grocer anytime soon. The fruit would be subject to more testing, and a company would have to want to develop, market and sell it.

But scientists say the findings are encouraging because the tomato is a promising example of a genetically modified food that would offer health benefits to all. In the meantime, eat a balanced diet loaded with fruits and vegetables… of all colors.