October 28/Pretoria, South Africa/Pretoria News -- A purple tomato genetically engineered to contain nutrients more commonly seen in dark berries helped prevent cancer in mice, British researchers said.

The finding, published in the journal Nature Biotechnology, bolsters the idea that plants can be genetically modified to make people healthier.

Cancer-prone mice fed the modified fruit lived significantly longer than animals fed a standard diet with and without regular tomatoes, Cathie Martin and colleagues at the government-funded John Innes Centre reported.

The study focused on anthocyanins, a type of antioxidant found in berries such as blackberries and blackcurrants that have been shown to lower the risk of cancer, heart disease and some neurological diseases.

Using genes that help color the snapdragon flower, the researchers discovered they could get the tomatoes to make anthocyanins -- turning the tomato purple in the process.

From the November 10, 2008, Prepared Foods e-Flash