Since the late ‘80s, an antioxidant found in tomatoes, lycopene, has been believed to protect against prostate cancer, despite a lack of scientific evidence to support that theory.  But a new study suggests that maybe there is a link after all; it may depend on a compound in tomatoes that interacts with lycopene to produce the beneficial effect.

Researchers from the University of Missouri found that rats fed tomato paste—with FruHis—an organic carbohydrate found in dehydrated tomatoes—survived the longest, 51 weeks without developing tumors, compared with 50 weeks in the tomato powder group, 45 weeks in the tomato paste group, and 40 weeks in the control group.

“We were trying to show that a combination of two different entities in tomato products which appear out of the preparation of tomato powder might interact together,” said Varie Mossine, the study’s head researcher. Although the research has not been conducted on humans yet, these findings might shed light and hope for the future.

Learn more in RH’s feature “Got Prostate?”