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New Antioxidant Found in Tomatoes When Stressed

Green tomatoes

What happens when you stress out a tomato plant? It produces a potent antioxidant that is 14 times more powerful than resveratrol, that’s what, according to researchers from the Institute of Molecular and Cell Biology.

Tomato plants react to stress in a healthy way

The Spanish research team discovered the new antioxidant while they were studying tomato plants that had undergone biotic stress, which is stress that occurs when plants are subjected to damage from insects, weeds, fungi, bacteria, and other similar factors. Understanding biotic stress in crops is important because it can have a devastating impact on agricultural yields and economics.

Now it appears there is a benefit to “stressed out” tomato plants. When the human body is under stress, it responds with defense mechanisms, such as fever, explained the researchers. Stressed or diseased plants also generate a response, which is the production of certain compounds.

“One of these, so far unknown, is the compound that we have discovered,” noted Jose Maria Belles and M. Pilar Lopez, two of the researchers, “which has extraordinary antioxidant capabilities.” The new phytochemical is reported to have 14 times the antioxidant power of resveratrol, which is found in red wine and grapes, ten times the potency of vitamin C, and 4.5 times the punch of vitamin E.

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Both the Universitat Politecnica de Valencia and the Spanish National Research Council—of which the Institute is a joint center—have registered the national and international patents of the new discovery as well as the lab procedures necessary to isolate and produce the antioxidant chemically. The process to synthesize the antioxidant has already been developed, and it is both simple and inexpensive.

The new antioxidant could have many useful applications, including in the food industry, where it could be used as a supplement in functional products, or as a preservative in both human and animal foods. Because of its high antioxidant properties, it may be utilized by the pharmaceutical industry for helping with diseases such as cancer and heart disease.

Other uses may include an additive in skin care products because of possible benefits from antioxidants in fighting aging skin, as well as in the manufacture of fibers and geotextiles, where it could serve as a stabilizer and extend the life of the products.

The next time you see a stressed tomato plant, it is likely producing some powerful antioxidants. Chances are those antioxidants will find their way into foods or other products you consume very soon.

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Photo source: Wikimedia Commons