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Effects of environmental factors and agricultural techniques on antioxidantcontent of tomatoes

Dumas, Yvon, Dadomo, Mario, Lucca Di, Giuseppe, Groiler, Pascal
Journal of the science of food and agriculture 2003 v.83 no.5 pp. 369-382
antioxidant activity, antioxidants, ascorbic acid, beta-carotene, biosynthesis, calcium, cultivars, disease prevention, environmental factors, industry, lycopene, neoplasms, nitrogen, nutrients, phenolic compounds, phosphorus, plant growth substances, potassium, temperature, tomatoes, vitamin E
Antioxidants are believed to be important in the prevention of diseases such as cancer and cardiovascular disease. Lycopene is one of the main antioxidants to be found in fresh tomatoes and processed tomato products. The lycopene content also accounts for the redness of the fruit, which is one of the main qualities for which industry and consumers now look. Other carotenes (such as β-carotene), vitamin C, vitamin E and various phenolic compounds are also thought to be health-promoting factors with antioxidant properties. Since the antioxidant content of tomatoes may depend on genetic factors, the choice of variety cultivated may affect the results at harvest. To be able to control the antioxidant content of tomatoes at the field level when growing a given variety, it is necessary to know the effects of both environmental factors and the agricultural techniques used. Temperatures below 12 °C strongly inhibit lycopene biosynthesis and temperatures above 32 °C stop this process altogether. The effects of the temperature on the synthesis of other antioxidants have not yet been properly assessed. The effects of light have been studied more thoroughly, apart from those on vitamin E. The effects of water availability, mineral nutrients (nitrogen, phosphorus, potassium and calcium) and plant growth regulators have been studied, but results are sometimes contradictory and the data often incomplete. During the ripening period, lycopene content of tomatoes increases sharply from the pink stage onwards, but no sufficient attempts have been made so far to assess the changes in the other antioxidants present in the fruit. This paper reviews the present state of the art.