I stumbled upon this as I was reading about tomatine. The title sums it up:
Anticarcinogenic, Cardioprotective, and Other Health Benefits of Tomato Compounds Lycopene, α-Tomatine, and Tomatidine in Pure Form and in Fresh and Processed Tomatoes, Journal of Agricultural and Food Chemistry, October 2013
Tomatoes produce the bioactive compounds lycopene and α-tomatine that are reported to have potential health-promoting effects in animals and humans, but our understanding of the roles of these compounds in the diet is incomplete. Our current knowledge gained from the chemistry and analysis of these compounds in fresh and processed tomatoes and from studies on their bioavailability, bioactivity, and mechanisms of action against cancer cells and other beneficial bioactivities including antibiotic, anti-inflammatory, antioxidative, cardiovascular, and immunostimulating effects in cells, animals, and humans is discussed and interpreted here. Areas for future research are also suggested. The collated information and suggested research might contribute to a better understanding of the agronomical, biochemical, chemical, physiological, molecular, and cellular bases of the health-promoting effects and facilitate and guide further studies needed to optimize the use of lycopene and α-tomatine in pure form and in fresh tomatoes and processed tomato products to help prevent or treat human disease.
I’m not posting this to promote the tomato, or any compound in it. I don’t believe in magic foods. But I’m impressed with how little we know about what’s in our food, the good and the bad. Here’s Harold McGee:
But the ongoing stories of tomato leaves and basil* show how little we really know about what we eat. Plant foods contain many thousands of different chemicals, and each one can have a number of different effects on the body, some benign, others not.
* McGee says that two chemicals in basil that contribute to its aroma, estragole and methyleugenol, have been found to cause DNA damage and cancer in animals, and that a European food safety agency has proposed regulating their use.