A local benefactor has sponsored a visit by American food researcher Dr Jessica Cooperstone to New Zealand. Dr Cooperstone is the guest of Mark Christensen's Heritage Food Crops Research Trust and will speak at the Whanganui Science Forum on Tuesday, March 28.
Mark Christensen is known for discovery and propagation of the high-health Monty's Surprise apple, now grown widely. More recently, the Trust has commissioned research into the health-promoting compounds of different types of tomatoes, especially a carotenoid antioxidant called lycopene.
Tests conducted by Plant & Food Research have shown that a different form of lycopene is present in some orange tomatoes. Compared to that in red tomatoes, it is better absorbed by the body, even when tomatoes are eaten raw.
Mark has imported a wide range of yellow and orange tomatoes from around the world. The best performing tomato has the unlikely name of Olga's Round Golden Chicken Egg.
"I became aware of major research into this same area happening at Ohio State University, and I have been corresponding with Jessica since 2014. I very much wanted her to meet with the Plant & Food Research scientists who have been conducting trials for us, but they didn't have funding available," explains Mark.
"I was delighted when a local person offered to fund Jessica's visit to New Zealand. This research might sound dry, but it has important implications. A high intake of lycopene is associated with a lower risk of some cancers. Jessica and her colleagues are investigating the role of lycopene in preventing and treating prostate cancer, for instance."
Dr Cooperstone is also meeting with scientists at Plant and Food Research in Palmerston North and the Auckland Cancer Research Centre at Auckland University. She is a research scientist in the Department of Food Science & Technology at Ohio State University and her doctoral thesis focused on the health benefits of tangerine (orange) tomatoes.
Dr Cooperstone will talk about food science research on tangerine tomatoes and how it might improve human health. ¦ Davis Theatre, March 28, 7.30pm, $4/5.