A 12-year study led by Dr Edward Giovannucci of the Harvard Medical School promotes the argument that lycope can help ward off breast cancer and osteoporosis.

The news has been received with pleasure by manufacturers of tomato ketchup, as this is a good source of lycopene. Giovannucci said: “Ketchup is an ideal source of lycopene, because it contains high concentrations of the compound, due to thermal processing used in its manufacturing. Tomato sauce captures most of the lycopene.”

In the past, tomatoes full of lycopene have been found to help men fight prostate concer, but it is now thought that women can benefit too, reports the…

At the Ben-Gurion University in Israel, Dr Joseph Levy tested the effects of lycopene and other tomato nutrients, phytoene and phytofluene, on breast cancer cells. He discovered that when the cells were exposed to low levels of the nutrients they continued to grow dramatically but the proliferation of cancer cells stopped when treated with higher levels.

It is also thought a diet rich in tomatoes can help prevent osteoporosis – brittle bone disease – which attacks mainly older women.

As well as tomatoes, lycopene is also said to be found in shellfish, watermelon and pink grapefruit.