Another reason to like pizza

Can pizza help prevent cancer?

It can, according to an article in Italy’s La Repubblica newspaper last week. But before you pick up the phone to call Dominos, a closer look at the details might lead to a healthier choice.

In a dietary study of 8,000 Italians, those who reported eating pizza regularly were almost 60 percent less likely to develop esophageal cancer than those who somehow make it through their days without a slice. Pizza eaters were also 26 percent less likely to develop colon cancer.

I wasn’t able to come up with an English version of the 7/20/03 issue of La Repubblica that carried this story, but you don’t need an Italian Nutrition Physician to tell you that the cancer fighting benefits enjoyed by those 8,000 subjects came from the tomato sauce. In other words: It’s not the pizza, it’s the tomato. But the cheese may help.

Tomatoes contain a phytochemical called lycopene, a potent antioxidant that has already been shown to offer cancer fighting benefits, as well as protection from heart disease. One of the interesting characteristics of lycopene is that it appears to be better absorbed when it’s heated, and eating it with fats further helps the absorption.

So tomato and cheese cooked together may very well add to “la dolce vita.” But a steady diet of pizza (that is to say, a steady diet that includes carbohydrates from white flour) could easily lead to “la obesity” – a condition that certainly offers no protection from either cancer or heart disease.

How about a regular intake of homemade tomato soup with freshly grated parmesan? Momma mia – now you’re talking.

To Your Good Health,

Jenny Thompson

Health Sciences Institute
“Pizza, the Latest Functional Food”, 7/21/03,