Plants are Full of Phytochemicals.txt

Plants are Full of Phytochemicals

Gabe Mirkin, M.D.

If you are not eating vegetable salads twice a day, you still do not 
have the message. Three new studies tell more about helpful 
chemicals from plants, or phytochemicals. 

We know that tomatoes contain a chemical called lycopene that helps 
prevent prostate and other cancers, and if you take lycopene before 
you expose your skin to the sun it can even help to prevent 
sunburns. Your body absorbs lycopene better from cooked tomatoes 
than from raw ones. A study from the United States Department of 
Agriculture's Agricultural Research Service Laboratory in 
Beltsville, Maryland, reported in Science News, shows that 
watermelons are an even better source of lycopene and that the 
lycopene in watermelons is absorbed from fresh (uncooked) 

The second study, from North Carolina State University, shows that 
tomatoes contain a powerful insect repellent that forces mosquitos 
to go the other way. The product is more repulsive to insects than 
DEET, the standard repellent. It is patented under the name IBI-246 
and should be available in a cream within a year. The third study 
shows that an extract from ginseng root prevents diabetes in mice by 
sensitizing cells to insulin. (2) 

Plants have been on earth for three billion years, and most of them 
are now extinct. The only plants that have survived have chemicals 
that repel insects, bacteria, viruses, and fungi; they have 
antioxidants that help heal broken leaves and stems; and they have 
substances that prevent overgrowth of cells. Many of these 
substances that help the plants also help the animals, including 
humans, that eat them. There will always be entrepreneurs who will 
extract chemicals from plants and sell them to you. But we don't know all of the good chemicals in plants. The best strategy is to eat lots of edible plants and vary what you eat. Taking pills will not correct the harm you cause by eating a diet based on hamburgers, French fries, and apple pie.
Phytochemicals that prevent cancer 

1) Science News, week of July 22, 2002
2) Diabetes, June 2002

Checked 7/2/12