Scientists in Britain are suggesting that a tomato product may help fight sunburn and wrinkles.
A study by researchers at Manchester and Newcastle Universities has found that adding five tablespoons of tomato paste to the daily diet of 10 volunteers, their skin's ability to protect against harmful UV rays improved.
Damage from UV rays can lead to premature ageing and even skin cancer and the scientists say it is the antioxidant lycopene found in tomatoes which provided the benefit.
The lycopene in tomatoes is at its highest concentration when the vegetable has been cooked - a link has already been established between lycopene and a reduction in the risk of prostate cancer.
The researchers gave 10 volunteers around 55g of standard tomato paste which contains high levels of cooked tomatoes and 10g of olive oil daily while another 10 participants received just the olive oil.
Tests after three months using UV lamps showed the tomato-eaters were a third better protected against sunburn at the end of the study than at the start, and other tests suggested the tomato-based diet had boosted the production of collagen the protein that keeps skin supple.
The skin samples from the tomato group showed they had 33% more protection against sunburn, the equivalent of a very low factor sun cream and much higher levels of pro-collagen, a molecule which gives the skin its structure and keeps its firm.
Professor Lesley Rhodes, a dermatologist at the University of Manchester says the tomato diet boosted the level of pro-collagen in the skin significantly which suggests a potential for the reversal of the skin ageing process.
The team warn however that tomatoes should be viewed as a "helpful addition" rather than an alternative to suncream and are now conducting research into the benefits of lycopene for the skin.
Other research has shown lycopene may protect against prostate cancer, as well as the lung, bladder, cervical and pancreatic forms of the disease; it may also boost heart health by combating artery-clogging cholesterol.
The study was presented at the British Society for Investigative Dermatology.