Tomato-based foods and tomatoes may reduce the risk of damage to the lungs caused by ozone, according to new preliminary findings presented this week at an international scientific symposium "On the Role of Tomato Products in Carotenoids and Disease Prevention." This study, and others, presented at the symposium, sponsored by the American Health Foundation, indicate a variety of new potential benefits from consumption of tomato-based foods including possible protection against age-related macular degeneration, cataracts and other diseases of the eye. "The latest findings on the benefits of tomato carotenoids, including lycopene, suggest that they may play a role in lung and vision function in healthy people," says Daniel Nixon, MD, president of the American Health Foundation, and director of the Foundation's Cancer Center. "Other studies presented further add to our understanding of the benefits that tomato-based foods may have for protection against cancers in specific organs, such as the prostate and lungs, and more recently to a decreased risk of cardiovascular disease,"Nixon added. At the symposium Frederick Khachik from the University of Maryland presented new preliminary information that suggests that carotenoids, particularly lycopene, may protect the eye against oxidative damage and thereby play a critical role in visual function. Dr. Khachik's research review builds on the well established knowledge that lutein and zeaxanthin are the two main dietary carotenoids in ocular tissues and may provide protection against age-related macular degeneration (AMD), the leading cause of blindness in those 65 and older. The identification of lycopene and a diverse range of dietary carotenoids in ocular tissues by Dr. Khachik suggests that these carotenoids as well as other nutrients found in tomato-based foods may work with lutein and zeaxanthin to provide protection against AMD and other visual disorders. Lycopene is found in high concentrations in ocular tissues, with the exception of neural retina and the lens. During the symposium scientists discussed research showing that the cooking and processing of tomato products may make lycopene more readily available to the body, indicating that there may be an added health benefit to eating processed tomato foods like tomato soup, pasta sauce and vegetable.