The Tomato Effect: Rejecting What’s Right For The Wrong Reasons

There's a lot more to this little tomato than meets the eye. Read on.

There’s a lot more to this little tomato than meets the eye. Read on.

Everyone knows about the “placebo effect:” the enthusiastic and widespread acceptance of therapies later shown to be useless or even harmful.

But do you know about the “tomato effect”?

The “tomato effect” in medicine occurs when an effective treatment for a certain disease is ignored or rejected because it does not “make sense” in light of accepted theories of disease mechanism and drug action.

The tomato, which belongs to the “nightshade” family of plants, was originally found in Peru and then carried back to Europe, where it quickly became a food staple. By 1560, it was grown all over Europe.

But while the Europeans were enjoying their tomatoes, the fruit was being actively shunned in North America. Why? Because “everyone” knew it was poisonous. At least, everyone in North America. It didn’t matter, that everyone else in Europe was eating it.

As the story goes, a man by the name of Robert G. Johnson from Salem, N.J. made headlines in 1820 by sitting on the Salem courthouse steps and eating a tomato in plain sight. He survived to tell the tale. From then on, the tomato slowly but surely became a popular North American edible. Over the last 80 years of the 20th century, the tomato has become the largest commercial crop in the United States.

But it took a while.

There are many famous “tomato effect” stories in medicine. The use of aspirin is one of the most famous. But that is not, why I am writing this blog.

I’m writing this blog because we are currently living in the time of the plant-based diet’s “tomato effect.”

Since the rise of Dr. Dean Ornish and Nathan Pritikin science has known about the revolutionary health effects the plant based, whole foods diet has on preventing and reversing major diseases like atherosclerosis, cardiovascular disease, cancers, auto-immune disorders and many, many more. Just go to and search either one of them. The staggering number of scientific articles published over the years in the most prestigious medical journals is mindboggling.

Since then, scientists like Dr. T. Colin Campbell at Cornell University came along, with the largest epidemiological studies published to this very day, unequivocally proving that a plant based, whole foods diet is inextricably linked to disease prevention: the China Study, a 800-page monumental document.

Physicians like Dr. Caldwell Esselstyn, Dr. John McDougall, Dr. Neal Barnard and Dr. Michael Greger — to name only a few — have performed groundbreaking clinical work and research on the plant based diet and disease reversal and prevention.

And yet, the western world at large, and the USA in particular, has never seen higher rates of obesity, diabetes type 2, and cardiovascular disease. While mortality outcomes from these diseases — as well as many forms of cancers — have improved, because of better treatments, the INCIDENCE has either remained unchanged from 30 years ago or increased.

And thus you have the “tomato effect” of the plant based diet in medicine: we have all the evidence that it works, yet it is barely put to use.

Medical students, physicians in training programs and thereafter, dietitians, and all allied health providers: NO ONE is being taught ANYTHING at all at this time about the benefits of a plant based diet. The reasons are complex and beyond the scope of this blog post, but I provide you with some excellent reading references on the subject.

More importantly: the public at large, while being brainwashed by the strong market forces in the media to consume fast foods, convenience foods and everything that’s highly processed, hears almost nothing about the real truth, the facts behind nutrition and disease.

As long as the dairy industry spends BILLIONS of dollars on advertising campaigns stating that “milk makes bones strong,” those of us who know the scientific facts have no chance of being heard. Namely, that dairy WEAKENS bones, that dairy consumed at an early childhood age increases the chances for type ONE diabetes (the incurable kind) by a multi-fold, that dairy contains pus cells, and that dairy hormones and growth factors promote cancer growth.

In my view, this goes way beyond the “tomato effect” — it borders on criminal.

I have long maintained, that we treat diet and disease today as we treated smoking and disease back in the ‘50s, when physicians were appearing in ads promoting their favorite brand.

In contrast to 1820, when all it took was a man sitting in plain view and eating a tomato, to disprove the notion that it was deadly to do so, in today’s reality leading by example is not enough.

What will it take before the “tomato effect” of the plant based diet will be dispelled?

Goodwin & Goodwin: The tomato effect. JAMA, May 11, 1984-Vol251, No 18

Please see also “Knowledge is Power” for links to the original article and other related literature.