Low adiponectin linked to breast cancer risk – eating tomatoes can help!

Freshly prepared pasta or pizza sauce in bowl with wooden spoon

Our bodies are so remarkable.  Made up of some 50 trillion cells, it is like a swirling universe of cell communication and interactions.  One simple change can have a domino effect, good or bad.  In that swirling universe, we know that low adiponectin levels are associated with several health issues, including an increased risk of breast cancer.  We know that decreasing the risk of developing breast cancer is good, and that many things (including improving adiponectin levels) can be helpful.  We know that eating tomatoes is a good idea, and that tomatoes (or tomato products) have many health benefits.  Now, thanks to new data, we know that tomatoes can help to increase adiponectin!

I’ll get to the study in a minute, but first, let me explain a bit about adiponectin.  Adiponectin is a hormone produced in our bodies by our fat cells.  When we are carrying too much fat, the fat cells make less adiponectin and less adiponectin is not a good thing.  Adiponectin helps control how our body uses sugars and fats in our diet, helps reduce inflammation throughout our body and decreases the build-up of cholesterol in our arteries.  The anti-inflammation component of adiponectin is thought to be its link to reduced risk of breast cancer.

OK, so, on to the study!  It was done jointly by Ohio State, Rutgers and Wake Forrest Universities.  The research group looked at the effect of two different diets on post-menopausal women at increased risk for developing breast cancer:

  • One diet was tomato-based and contained 25 mg of lycopene, an important carotenoid found in tomatoes
  • One diet was soy based and contained  40 grams of soy protein daily for its isoflavone content.

A total of 70 women participated in the study.  They were all patients at the Ohio State University Comprehensive Cancer Center.  For 10 weeks they received the tomato-based diet and for 10 weeks they received the soy-based diet.  There was a 2 week break (called a “washout period”) between the two test diets.  The researchers specifically looked at the hormones produced by fat cells, including adiponectin.   The results showed:

  • After the tomato intervention,  adiponectin levels were increased for all 70 women
  • After the soy intervention, adiponectin levels decreased for the majority of women and none of them experienced an increase in adiponectin

The study conclusion – “Increasing dietary consumption of tomato-based foods may beneficially increase serum adiponectin concentrations among postmenopausal women at increased breast cancer risk …”.

Eating 25mg of lycopene in your diet is not too difficult.  Eight ounces of tomato juice has about 25mg, two tablespoons of tomato paste has about 14mg, one cup of raw tomato has about 4mg.  You can get lycopene in other foods too .

So, what about the soy diet?  The adiponectin went down, so clearly using soy to increase our adiponectin levels would not be valuable.  Yet, there is good evidence for soy being protective for decreasing risk of developing breast cancer.  Read my post on this topic for my take of the soy-breast cancer question.

Since low adiponectin is linked to increased risk of breast cancer, eating tomatoes can help. There are any number of good reasons to help your body increase the production of adiponectin.  If eating tomato-based products can do that, then I give it a hardly thumbs up!    And, eating organic is so much better.  I love all the great Wild Oats Organic Tomato Products  –  so many choices!!  Tomatoes are good for us  –  nice!!

Additional Resources:

Low adiponectin linked to breast cancer risk

Health issues associated with low adiponectin

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