Anthocyanins May Mean Outrageously Healthy Purple Tomatoes
    By News Staff | October 26th 2008 01:00 PM | 6 comments | Print | E-mail | Track Comments
    Scientists have expressed genes from snapdragon in tomatoes to grow purple tomatoes high in health-protecting anthocyanins.  Anthocyanins are naturally occurring pigments found at particularly high levels in berries such as blackberry, cranberry and chokeberry. Scientists are investigating ways to increase the levels of health-promoting compounds in more commonly eaten fruits and vegetables.

    Anthocyanins offer protection against certain cancers, cardiovascular disease and age-related degenerative diseases. There is evidence that anthocyanins also have anti-inflammatory activity, promote visual acuity and hinder obesity and diabetes.

    Tomatoes already contain high levels of the antioxidant lycopene. Highly processed tomatoes are the best source, or tomatoes cooked in a little oil, which helps to release the lycopene from cells. Flavonoids meanwhile are soluble in water, and foods containing both water soluble and fat-dissolved antioxidants are considered to offer the best protection against disease. 

    purple tomatoes high in anthocyanins
    Purple tomatoes high in anthocyanins

    “Most people do not eat 5 portions of fruits and vegetables a day, but they can get more benefit from those they do eat if common fruit and veg can be developed that are higher in bioactive compounds,“ says Prof Cathie Martin from the John Innes Centre. 

    In this study the scientists expressed two genes from snapdragon that induce the production of anthocyanins in snapdragon flowers. The genes were turned on in tomato fruit. Anthocyanins accumulated in tomatoes at higher levels than anything previously reported for metabolic engineering in both the peel and flesh of the fruit. The fruit are an intense purple colour. 

    The scientists tested whether these elevated levels actually had an effect on health. In a pilot test, the lifespan of cancer-susceptible mice was significantly extended when their diet was supplemented with the purple tomatoes compared to supplementation with normal red tomatoes.

    "This is one of the first examples of metabolic engineering that offers the potential to promote health through diet by reducing the impact of chronic disease," says Professor Cathie Martin.

    “And certainly the first example of a GMO with a trait that really offers a potential benefit for all consumers. The next step will be to take the preclinical data forward to human studies with volunteers to see if we can promote health through dietary preventive medicine strategies.”

    EU funding was through two research projects to elucidate the contribution bioactive compounds in food can make to improving health through diet:  ProFood (, focused on improved antioxidant content for food applications and FLORA (, focused on the effects of flavonoids and related phenolics on cardiovascular disease, stroke and cancer.

    Article: ‘Enrichment of tomato fruit with health-promoting anthocyanins by expression of select transcription factors’, Nature Biotechnology doi: 10.1038/nbt.1506


    I wonder, does the heritage tomato "Black Russian" contain anthocyanins?

    Apparently, "black" tomatoes are a speciality of Russia.
    Robert H. Olley / Quondam Physics Department / University of Reading / England
    Steve Davis
    "Scientists are investigating ways to increase the levels of health-promoting compounds in more commonly eaten fruits and vegetables."
    This is bordering on an abuse of scientific research.
    Just what is the point of it?
    To allow us to eat more crap, safe in the knowledge that we can compensate by eating a small portion of gentically modified "health foods"?
    Fruit and vegetables already contain high levels of compounds essential to good health.
    Steve Davis, kindly shut the fuck up. Our consumerist/capitalist drive here in the states has brought on thousands of 'foods' that are full of chemicals and other unhealthy things we would never even consider eating but most people now consume without even thinking of the health concerns.

    Again: shut the fuck up.

    Anything bringing more, easier to grow, healthy veggies into my diet is appreciated. GMO'ed bug proof potatoes for my garden, Bigger, better, less disease prone and healthier ( and hopefully tastier) tomatoes, combined with a slug-proofed leaf lettuce, Rot and bug proof cumbers, Self-preserving turnips, bug free cabbages that grow very fast, quick germinating carrots, fast early, bug proof and proliferate strawberries, huge sweet fast growing vine borer proof squash for winter storage, Fast, bug proof All-heads broccoli, anything to improve life in my post great republican depression shanty and my composted, humanured garden beside it. Without oil, and without credit, this is where Americans are going to live - and soon! The banks are broke, we honored the Shylocks, Shysters, Swindlers and Banksters who committed TREASON against our nation, with golden parachutes, and robbed Joe taxpayer to do so, The Saudis and OPEC countries have announced, they intend, regardless of a free-market demand, to cut oil supplies until they get $75.00 bbl, " This time around" (Blackmail!) and they do this because they are running out of oil, and do not dare or care to say so! - The better the food we can grow where our "stylish" 18th century British uppercrust cloning lawns once were, in our parks, vacant fields, flower gardens, flower pots and highway medians, the better the chance we have of feeding the soon to be starving and landless anarchy of Urban masses as the corporate owned, foreign invested factory food suppliers go out of business with lower than expected ROI's and move money to China for better ROI's! Go Monsanto Go! We need you now, more than ever!

    This is great! Good food even better - made by snapdragon anthocyanin genes. I'd love to have some seeds - and I'd be happy to participate in a field study of the benefit of these tomatoes in humans! Good use of science for the betterment of mankind more than the betterment of the pocketbook.

    Tomatoes are one of the most common vegetables all over the world. They are quickly growing plants and are favorite among most amateur gardeners so as me.
    I will start to grow tomatoes in my farm and now learning watever i can about them, thanks for information. I also
    found another good site about tomatoes and so many other methods of agriculturing, i recommend you to take a look.