Anybody for a tomato and soy?
are trying to turn what is at present an unappetising watery orange
liquid into a tasty drink full of health-giving properties.
The researchers, led by oncologists Dr Steven Clinton and Dr Steven Schwartz, want to create a functional beverage with soy-enhanced tomato juice, and need 20 volunteers, who are brave enough to taste the substance in its early stages.
"First, we just want to find out if the drink is consumable, then we can work on making it desirable," says Dr Clinton.
He and his colleagues are interested in how soy may work with lycopene - a carotenoid found in tomatoes and other red fruits - to help in the fight against cancer.
"What we are trying to do is pack two potent health promoters in a relatively small package," says Clinton. "We know a lot about how each of these components acts individually in the body, but we're interested in seeing how they might work together."
Participants in the study will drink 12 ounces of the soy-tomato juice each day for eight weeks. Scientists will collect their blood and urine and measure how the soy and lycopene is metabolized, absorbed and excreted. They will also measure the drink's impact on blood lipids and oxidative stress.
The participants will drink two six-ounce cans of the mixture daily, an amount that includes about 40 milligrams of lycopene and about 90 milligrams of soy. This would be considerably more of both substances than is generally consumed by the average American.
"Right now, the average American has zero soy in his or her diet, and only a fraction of the lycopene we've included," said Clinton.
Lycopene can help to break down oxygen free radicals in the body that can damage DNA and lead to cancer. Some studies have suggested that including products containing lycopene and other phytochemicals in a diet can help prevent prostate and colon cancer and reduce the risk of cardiovascular disease.
Similarly, studies have shown that people - particularly in Asia, where they tend to eat significantly more soy than in the West - enjoy much lower rates of cardiovascular disease and a reduced risk of prostate, breast and colon cancer.
Moreover, the isoflavones in soy can mimic the action of estrogen, meaning that soy may be helpful for some women, such as those who are trying to cope with post-menopausal symptoms or osteoporosis.
Clinton and Schwartz believe this is the first time substantial concentrations of soy have been successfully added to tomato juice. Soy is heavy and tends to precipitate in liquid, making soy protein un-useable for this beverage. It was only when the scientists started using soy germ that they began to make progress.
The researchers are developing the drink with support from a grant from the US Department of Agriculture.