Scientists discovered that tomato juice may have the power to kill several types of bacteria, including pathogens that cause severe diarrhea and urinary tract infections.
Recently, a slew of recalls involving food contaminated with Salmonella have made headlines. For example, the FDA issued a recall on cantaloupe in September 2023 due to potential salmonella risks. The CDC says a total of 407 people in 44 states became ill, and six died after eating the tainted fruits.
Then, in December, Quaker Oats Company recalled over 40 granola bars and cereals for possible salmonella contamination and expanded that recall in January to include even more products. This was followed by a recall of Costco and Sam's Club charcuterie meat, which sickened dozens of people.
Salmonella comes in several forms. While most types cause diarrhea and abdominal cramping, serotypes like Salmonella Typhi can cause typhoid fever — a potentially deadly infection that produces symptoms including high fever, fatigue, headache, abdominal pain, and constipation or diarrhea.
People infected with the most common types generally recover on their own. For those with severe Salmonella infections, treatment may involve rehydration and antibiotics.
However, a new study published on January 30 in Microbiology Spectrum may have uncovered a simple, non-drug approach to killing Salmonella Typhi and other potentially deadly bacteria using tomato juice.
Does tomato juice kill bacteria?
The researchers investigated whether tomato juice could kill Salmonella Typhi, Salmonella Typhimurium, and uropathogenic E. coli — a bacteria strain that causes urinary tract infections (UTIs).
Lab experiments showed that tomato juice was effective at eliminating these pathogens. When the researchers investigated further, they identified two tomato-derived anti-microbial peptides — tdAMP1 and tdAMP2 — that can kill all three bacteria by impairing the membrane surrounding the pathogen.
Moreover, the team found that tdAMP-1 and tdAMP-2 had anti-bacterial actions against drug-susceptible and drug-resistant Salmonella Typhi.
The researchers say their findings suggest tomato juice and its microbe-busting peptides show potential in combating specific Gram-negative pathogens.
"This study offers valuable insights into the potential utilization of tomatoes as a natural anti-microbial food source for the promotion of public health," the study's authors wrote. "Given their widespread popularity and cost-effectiveness, tomatoes possess considerable potential as alternative anti-microbial agents within lifestyle interventions."
The USDA/NIFA Hatch Project, which supports continuing agricultural research, partly funded the study.
Other potential benefits of tomato juice
While this research revealed the anti-microbial properties of tomato juice, previous studies have found that it could also help improve blood pressure and low-density lipoprotein (LDL) cholesterol levels. Moreover, a study published in 2020 found that tomatoes may reduce inflammation in the body.
But before dashing out to the store to pick up tomato juice, people should keep in mind that the researchers involved in these studies used unsalted versions of the beverage. Reports suggest that some tomato juice products contain as much as 670 mg of sodium, which is 28% of an individual's recommended daily salt intake.
Excessive sodium is linked to a wide range of health conditions, including heart disease, high blood pressure, and stroke. That's why the World Health Organization (WHO) recently called for a crackdown on salt consumption and urged nations around the world to create sodium reduction policies.
- FDA. Outbreak investigation of Salmonella: Cantaloupes (November 2023).
- Microbiology Spectrum. Anti-microbial properties of tomato juice and peptides against typhoidal Salmonella.
- Food Science & Nutrition. Unsalted tomato juice intake improves blood pressure and serum low-density lipoprotein cholesterol level in local Japanese residents at risk of cardiovascular disease.
- Journal of King Saud University – Science. The effect of tomato on weight, body mass index, blood pressure and inflammatory factors: A systematic review and dose-response meta-analysis of randomized controlled trials.