How tomatoes could tame liver diseases — even cancer

American livers are under a lot of stress…

Obesity and diabetes are on the rise, and both these conditions lead to one of the most common liver diseases — nonalcoholic fatty liver disease.

Nonalcoholic fatty liver disease makes your liver look like the damaged liver of an alcoholic (even if you don’t drink). And although nonalcoholic fatty liver disease doesn’t usually have symptoms (at most, you may feel a bit tired or have stomach pain), it puts you at a much higher risk for liver cancer.

Luckily, there are ways to prevent your liver from heading down this dangerous road. Getting conditions like obesity and diabetes under wraps should be your priority, of course. But these are big goals that take time and dedication.

In the meantime, you can try something simple and safe that makes a difference in your liver health and reduces your risk of liver cancer right away — eating more tomatoes.

The cancer-fighting food your liver loves

A new study conducted by researchers at Tufts University found that tomatoes could protect you from liver cancer.

In the study, researchers infected mice with a liver carcinogen when they were babies. Then they fed these mice an unhealthy diet (the kind that leads to obesity, diabetes and eventually liver problems). Some of these mice also received tomato powder in their diet. These little guys were the lucky ones…

Mice who received tomato powder were protected from the inflammation, fatty liver disease, and liver cancer that other mice faced due to their carcinogen exposure and diet.


Well, tomatoes contain a powerful antioxidant called lycopene. Lycopene has a reputation for fighting inflammation and cancer. In fact, eating tomatoes and tomato products are tied to a lower risk of prostate, lung, breast and colon cancer, plus other diseases like cardiovascular disease, osteoporosis, and diabetes.

Researchers also found that mice who ate tomato powder had healthier microbiomes, so that could contribute to the health benefits they received as well.

Showing your liver love with lycopene

Even though this study was performed on mice and not humans, there’s enough existing scientific support to give you this safe and simple advice:

Eat more tomatoes.

There are no guarantees that it will prevent you from getting liver cancer, but it will help your overall health regardless.

Related: Harvard finds ‘tomato pill’ stops stroke and high blood pressure

Lycopene absorbs best when you heat the tomato, or combine it with fat, like olive oil.

In the study, mice received the equivalent of two to three servings of tomato per day (1 cup per serving) or a serving of tomato sauce on pasta.

If you’re not a fan of tomatoes, don’t fret. There are other ways to get your lycopene….

You can take a lycopene supplement. But it’s not as effective as the real thing. In this study, researchers found that tomato powder was more beneficial than the same amount of pure lycopene. They think that’s because it contains other healthy nutrients like vitamin E, vitamin C, folate, minerals, phenolic compounds, and fiber.

You can also try other lycopene-filled foods, like:

  • Guava
  • Watermelon
  • Grapefruit
  • Papaya
  • Red bell peppers
  • Persimmon
  • Asparagus
  • Red cabbage
  • Mangos

But once again, they may not be as effective. Tomatoes are the richest source of lycopene by far — at least when it’s processed or cooked (raw tomatoes have slightly less lycopene than raw guava and watermelon). So, if you think you can learn to love tomato products, it’s a worthy endeavor — one that could keep your liver healthy and cancer-free.

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  1. Study finds that in mice, lycopene in tomatoes reduced fatty liver disease, inflammation and liver cancer — MedicalXpress
  2. Dietary Tomato Powder Inhibits High-Fat Diet–Promoted Hepatocellular Carcinoma with Alteration of Gut Microbiota in Mice Lacking Carotenoid Cleavage Enzymes — Cancer Prevention Research
  3. When the liver gets fatty — Harvard Health Publishing
  4. Diabetes: How do I help protect my liver? — Mayo Clinic
  5. Top 10 Foods High in Lycopene — My Food Data
  6. What Are the Best Sources of Lycopene? —


Jenny Smiechowski

By Jenny Smiechowski

Jenny Smiechowski is a Chicago-based freelance writer who specializes in health, nutrition and the environment. Her work has appeared in online and print publications like Chicagoland Gardening magazine, Organic Lifestyle Magazine, BetterLife Magazine,, and