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The University of Alicante grows tomatoes with more antioxidants, vitamin C and increased nutritional quality to prevent cancer and cardiovascular diseases

Irradiation with doses of 1 kilojoule per square meter of ultraviolet light C is enough to raise tomatoes enriched in antioxidants

ultraviolet C irradiation produces a germicidal effect, increases antioxidants, delays maturation and senescence of fruit

 

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Photographs and images provided by the authors

 

Alicante. 20 July 2017

The University of Alicante carries out an experimental study growing Daniela variety tomatoes with an increase of more than 40% in their antioxidant content, specifically in lycopene, flavonoids, anthocyanins and vitamin C, which reveals an increase in the nutritional quality of these fruits. Daily consumption of this type of tomatoes could contribute to prevent the risk of certain types of cancer and cardiovascular diseases. Although research is still at an early stage, it reveals a relatively simple way to grow fruits and vegetables with nutraceutical properties.

The experiment found that the irradiation of tomatoes with ultraviolet light type C, other than having a germicidal effect, by reducing the burden of the pathogenic organisms of the fruit, it can also significantly increase the nutritional quality.

This is just some evidence from the research work carried out by University of Alicante student of Biology Ana Casino Pesudo in her final-year undergraduate project (TFG) "Efecto de la radiación UV-C en el contenido de antioxidantes en tomate (Solanum lycopersicum L.) variedad ‘Daniela’" (Effect of UV-C radiation on antioxidant content in 'Daniela' variety tomatoes (Solanum lycopersicum L.)  This experimental work was chosen by the student after a proposal made by her lecturer and tutor Mar Cerdán. The study and its conclusions were presented today, Thursday, 20 July 2017 at the UA Faculty of Sciences.  

Casino found that, after irradiation of tomatoes with ultraviolet light C, no alteration of the organoleptic parameters of the fruit, such as colour, weight or hardness occurs for any of the irradiated doses. The result is an increase of the soluble solids content, a parameter that is related to the sweetness of the fruit and also a decrease of the acidity value, which results in sweeter tomatoes and probably with a greater acceptance by consumers.

Several factors have supported this study. On the one hand, as researcher in theDepartment of  Agrochemistry and Biochemistry Mar Cerdán explained, "we are looking for postharvest conservation techniques that allow the burden of pathogenic organisms of the product to reduce without leaving residues in it". Along with this, we must also consider a European legislation that restricts the use of synthetic plant protection products in horticultural products from organic farming. On the other hand, there is increasing demand, especially from Europe, to ensure zero residue in this type of food.

Although this post-harvest conservation technique is at a research stage, researchers reveal its effectiveness in the control of pathogenic micro organisms due to its germicidal properties and also in the control of the ripening process. The increase in the nutritional quality of the fruits is also considered.

Research activities are being done on red fruits and fourth-range products nowadays. Researchers thought of tomatoes to be used as horticultural products and they chose the Daniela variety, "for being one of the most well-known and available" as atated by Casino's tutor. "Because their long lasting shelf life, this type of tomatoes are available for export.

"The study reveals daily intake of these tomatoes can prevent some types of cancers and cardiovascular diseases due to the higher levels of lycopene and antioxidants," the lecturer said. Cerdan has expressed her intention to publish this experimental work after the defence of her work, today Thursday. After the results achieved, a possible starting point for a new line of research in the Agricultural Chemistry Group, where Mar Cerdán is a member, will be considered.

The goal of the study was to determine whether the irradiation of the Daniela variety with ultraviolet light C at certain doses could improve the nutritional properties of these fruits, particularly their antioxidant content, without altering the organoleptic parameters nor causing visual damages on them . As a result, the study reveals that the most effective dose to increase the nutritional quality of Daniela tomato variety was 1 kJ/m2 — of all doses of UV-C radiation used (0.25 -10 kJ / m2). Evidence that tomatoes subjected to this dose of radiation had a higher content of vitamin C, lycopene, flavonoids, anthocyanins and phenolic compounds was provided. This increase in the antioxidant content could be due to the incidence of UV-C light on the synthesis processes of these compounds.

Mar Cerdán confirms that they will continue working on other varieties of commercial tomatoes and other crops to see how they behave. Subsequent studies will be directed to determine whether that dose is suitable for other varieties of tomatoes and, if it is so, to compare it to other horticultural products.

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