The Tomato Effect:  Rejection of Highly Efficacious Therapies

James S. Goodwin, MD; Jean M. Goodwin, MD, MPH
JAMA. 1984;251(18):2387-2390. doi:10.1001/jama.1984.03340420053025.
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THE TOMATO (Lycopersicon esculentum) is a New World plant, originally found in Peru and carried back to Spain from whence it quickly spread to Italy (pommidoro) and France, where it was known as the pomme d'amour and thought to have aphrodisiac properties (this is the first recorded confusion between the placebo effect and the tomato effect— described herein). By 1560, the tomato was becoming a staple of the continental European diet.

Of interest is that while this exotic fruit from South America (along with other novel products such as potatoes, corn, beans, cocoa, and tobacco) was revolutionizing European eating habits, at the same time it was ignored or actively shunned in North America.1,2 During the 18th century, tomatoes were not even cultivated in North America. Not until the 1800s did North Americans accept the tomato as edible; commercial cultivation of tomatoes was rare until the 20th century, although in the


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