For the study, ten volunteers were asked to eat five tablespoons of tomato paste mixed with olive oil every day for three months to test the fruit's ability to protect the skin. Another ten had a daily dose of olive oil without the tomato paste. Tests using ultra-violet lamps showed the tomato-eaters were a third better protected against sunburn at the end of the study than at the start, the Daily Mail reported.
Other tests suggested the tomato-based diet had boosted production of collagen, the protein that keeps skin supple.
The researchers stressed, however, that their findings were not an excuse to throw away the sunscreen. Professor Lesley Rhodes, a Manchester University dermatologist, said, ''People should not think tomatoes in any way can replace sunscreens but they may be a good additive.'' The fruit's benefits are credited to lycopene, the pigment behind its distinctive red skin.