London: Eating tomatoes few times a week can reduce your chances of suffering from depression by half, a new study has claimed. Researchers analysed the mental health records and diet habits of around 1,000 men and women aged 70 or over. They found that those eating tomatoes two to six times a week were 46 per cent less likely to suffer the blues than those eating them less than once a week, the 'Daily Mail' reported. The study was published in the Journal of Affective Disorders.
Eating tomatoes every day slashed the risk by 52 per cent. Other fruits and vegetables do not have the same benefits, the study found. Eating healthy foods like cabbage, carrots, onions and pumpkins appeared to have little or no effect on psychological well-being.
Tomatoes are rich in antioxidant chemicals that are thought to protect against some diseases. They are a particularly good source of lycopene, an antioxidant that gives them their deep red colour and has been linked with reducing the risk of prostate cancer and heart attacks.
The team of researchers from China and Japan, led by Dr Kaijun Niu from China's Tianjin Medical University, wanted to investigate preliminary reports that lycopene might also promote psychological and well as physical health by reducing oxidative stress, or damage to healthy brain cells. They analysed the mental health records and dietary habits of just under 1,000 elderly Japanese men and women aged 70 or over.
The researchers said they cannot be sure if lycopene in tomatoes directly affects the mind, or whether it simply protects against the depression caused when people develop potentially fatal diseases like cancer. "These results suggest that a tomato-rich diet may have a beneficial effect on the prevention of depressive symptoms. In contrast, no relationship was observed with intake of other kinds of vegetables," researchers said.