Ketchup, for the good times

Harvard study: No matter how you spell it, ketchup can help reduce the risk of prostate cancer.

March 09, 2002

GARRISON KEILLOR and the Ketchup Advisory Board must be having a good laugh now.

For years, the radio show host and his regulars have lampooned the tomato-based condiment and its "natural mellowing agents." For a testy husband, a hormonal wife, a dollop of ketchup can cure your woes, as the advisory board's theme song goes, "A new day is dawning, a new life has begun ... "

And now comes Dr. Edward L. Giovannucci of the Harvard School of Public Health with the real word on ketchup's healing powers. Not just ketchup, but tomato sauce, stewed tomatoes, tomato juice, just about any other tomato-based food.

Dr. Giovannucci, a serious-looking fellow with a sonorous voice, studied the diets of more than 47,000 men and their prostate cancer histories.

The good doctor found that men who dined on tomato products twice a day reduced their risk of prostate cancer by 24 to 36 percent. The study by Dr. Giovannucci, who by the way likes a good spaghetti sauce, confirms what other scientists have found about tomatoes and other foods that contain lycopene, a potent antioxidant.

There hasn't been this much fuss over ketchup since 1981, when the Reagan administration tried to reclassify it as a vegetable for the school lunch program.

But some ketchup experts have been preaching the good word about lycopene for years.

"We've had lycopene messages on our bottles - that it is a potent antioxidant, that it can help repair the body's damaged cells - for two years," says Michael Mullen of Heinz North America. "We are the largest producer of processed tomato products in the world. ... Lycopene is important to us."

And whether it's purple, green or red, ketchup's got it.

Maestro, please: "These are the good years in the golden sun, a new day is dawning, a new life has begun. ... Love is flowing like ketchup on a bun. Ketchup. For the good times ... "

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