Pizza has always been seen as a meal high in fat and big guilt factor.
But, according to a study, it can also cut your risk of developing a range of cancers.
Researchers discovered that those who ate pizza at least twice a week were 59 per cent less likely to develop cancer of the oesophagus, had a 34 per cent lower risk of throat cancer and were 26 per cent less likely to get colon cancer.
There is growing evidence of the health benefits of a diet rich in tomato sauce, but this is the first time that experts have claimed eating pizza can fight disease.
Dr Silvano Gallus, of the Mario Negri Institute for Pharmaceutical Research in Milan, said: ‘We knew that the tomatoes used in the sauce are considered to be a food that prevents certain tumours.
‘However, we did not expect that pizza as a whole offered such high prevention against cancer.’ The study involved 3,315 patients with tumours of the digestive system who were compared to almost 5,000 people suffering other ailments.
Each patient had to fill in a questionnaire about their eating habits, including a question on how often they ate pizza, says a report in the International Journal of Cancer.
The amount they ate was not specified but the scientists concluded that regular consumption of pizza helped stave off cancer.
Almost all pizzas contain tomato sauce or puree and this is already proven to have cancerfightingproperties. The secret lies in lycopene, an antioxidant in the skin of tomatoes which makes them red.
It is thought that lycopene may inhibit or even reverse the growth of tumours.
Lycopene is found in fresh tomatoes but is much more efficiently absorbed by the body when the tomatoes have been processed into foods.
The typical daily intake of a British adult is less than one milligram, about 25 times less than the amount which was found in studies to protect against disease.
Research shows that a high intake of lycopene-rich vegetables is linked to lower rates of many diseases.
The Greeks, for example, eat more than twice as many fruit and vegetables as Britons and, despite being a nation of smokers, deaths from heart disease are half those in Britain.
Other research shows lycopene helps fight prostate and breast cancer, heart disease, male infertility and the bone-thinning disease osteoporosis. A spokesman for Heinz said: ‘It comes as no surprise to Heinz, the world’s largest processor of tomatoes and the founder of the Lycopene Project – a global initiative designed to identify and fund further research into the effects of lycopene – to hear of further research demonstrating the health benefits of processed tomatoes.’