London, Aug 24 : Eating reheated spaghetti bolognese can cut cancer risk, according to a new study.
According to researchers, multiple rounds of heating - plus a little extra oil - enhance the health benefits of processed tomatoes.
The technique alters the structure of the tomato molecule lycopene so that it is more easily transported into the bloodstream.
Lycopene, a powerful antioxidant, has been shown to prevent cancers and may also combat heart disease and diabetes.
Earlier studies have indicated that processing raw tomatoes into purees or sauces increased the benefits.
Now researchers have discovered a way to enhance this further, with a technique that is already used by families in making and reheating their spag bol.
In the average tomato, lycopene generally has a straight or 'linear' shape that hinders its ability to pass through intestinal walls into the blood.
However most of the lycopene found circulating in the bloodstream has a 'bent' molecular form. So scientists believe this kind of structure is more likely to pass into the blood when consumed.
"What we have found is we can take the red tomato molecular form of lycopene and by processing it and heating it in combination with added oil, we can change the shape of the molecule so it is configured in this bent form," The Daily Mail quoted study leader Dr Steven Schwartz, from Ohio State University in Columbus, as saying.
Heat is vital to the process, but so is the addition of some fat, which helps carry the lycopene through the gut walls.
To carry out the research, the scientists processed red tomatoes into two kinds of sauce. One was rich in cislycopene - the 'bent' variety - while the other mostly contained all-trans-lycopene, the linear form.
Corn oil was added to both sauces, but the key to producing 'bent' lycopene was a 40-minute second round of heating at 127c. The resulting sauce contained nine times more 'bent' lycopene.
A small study was then conducted on 12 volunteers who were given both types of sauce to eat. After each meal, blood samples-were taken and analysed over nine and a half hours. Lycopene blood levels were 55 per cent higher after consumption of the new sauce, the scientists found.
The study has been presented at the annual meeting of the American Chemical Society in Philadelphia.