Israeli researchers have developed a new strain of tomatoes rich in zeaxanthin which could help curb the progression of age-related macular degeneration (AMD).
Zeaxanthin is a natural yellow pigment that has high antioxidant properties. It’s found in corn, orange peppers, pumpkins and citrus fruits and at low concentrations in melons, mangos, apricots and peaches, but is significantly less available than other carotenoids in our diet, said study lead Professor Joseph Hirschberg from the Hebrew University of Jerusalem.
Zeaxanthin could potentially inhibit degenerative diseases, especially AMD, by protecting the light receptors in the retina from damage caused by strong blue light, he said.
The new strain of tomato was developed through classical genetic cultivation using hybridisations of different strains resulting in the Xanotomato; named for the ‘xanthophyll’ group of substances, which includes zeaxanthin. Zeaxanthin makes up more than half of the Xanotomato’s pigments, on top of the vitamins and other essential nutrients found in regular tomatoes, and has seven times more zeaxanthin than corn, said Prof Hirschberg.
The study was published in Plant Biotechnology Journal.