Published on February 28th, 2013 |
by George Conte
Lycopene benefits and sources
The lycopene is a natural pigment and phytochemical that is synthesized exclusively by plants and microorganisms. The red color of many kinds of fruits is due to the presence of lycopene and other carotenoids. One of the functions of lycopene is that it can absorb the light during the photosynthesis, protecting in this way the plants from photosensitivity. It is among the most widely used natural dyes.
Facts and benefits of lycopene
- Lycopene is a very powerful antioxidant with antitumor activity. It Is two times stronger than beta-carotene (provitamin A). With the antioxidant action it has, it can neutralize free radicals produced by the normal metabolism of cells. Free radicals of oxygen can lead to alterations of the DNA which in turn can lead to cancer.
- In 1995, researchers from Harvard University found in 48,000 men who attended the research for 6 years that those who ate up to 10 servings per week of foods containing tomatoes or tomato sauce, were 45% less likely to develop prostate cancer.
- The consumption of tomatoes reduces the risk of lung, prostate and stomach cancer. It can also reduce the risk for cancer of the breast, cervix, colon, esophagus, oral cavity and pancreas.
- A study conducted in the U.S., named “pizza study”, found that men who consumed two servings of tomato sauce per week had a reduced risk of prostate cancer.
- Lycopene if consumed alone as a drug does not have such properties. To have antitumor activity it must be consumed in a natural way. This shows that the lycopene is part of a broader family of plant nutrients and phytochemicals which act together to give beneficial anti-tumor effects.
- Other studies have shown that lycopene is good for the heart because it reduces the amount of oxidized LDL-cholesterol, the one commonly called as bad cholesterol.
- A study conducted in Finland found that eating tomatoes helps to promote better health for the cardiovascular system, improves the condition of the arteries and prevents atherosclerosis.
- The concentration of lycopene is higher when the tomato is cooked. For this reason the sauces and tomato ketchup contain high amounts of this substance.
- Genetically modified tomatoes contain 3.5 times more lycopene than normal tomatoes. It is one of the few cases in which the research and production of genetically modified food leads to the creation of a variety which has enhanced properties against cancer.
- The latest research on lycopene shows that it has a positive effect on the immune system. In one study, women who ate tomato paste daily for 21 days had higher levels of lycopene in their blood than those who followed a diet without tomatoes. The white blood cells of those who ate tomatoes were much more resistant to oxidative damage (33-42%).
Foods high in lycopene
Lycopene is the most abundant carotenoid in ripe tomatoes. The amount contained in tomatoes depends on the variety, maturity and environmental conditions under which they mature:
|Lycopene content in some varieties of tomatoes
|Juice from ripe tomatoes
|Juice from green tomatoes
|Juice from tomatoes (India)
|Fresh tomato (June-August)
||3.8 to 6.6
|Fresh tomato (October to March in Finland)
||2.6 to 3.1
|Fresh tomato (Malaysia)
|Fresh tomato (usa)
|Lycopene content in certain fruits and vegetables
||0.72 to 20
||2.3 to 7.2
||5.23 to 5.5
||0.35 to 3.36
||0.11 to 5.3
||0.68 to 0.71
||0.65 to 0.78
||0.38 to 0.46
||0.02 to 0.11
||0.11 to 0.18
||0.01 to 0.05
Final thoughts about lycopene
You can probably tell by now that lycopene has many health advantages. The best part is that the sources of lycopene are easily available to us unlike other healthy nutrients that are rare and exotic. I think the easiest way to add lycopene in your diet is by using tomato sauces with spices in your food or fresh tomatoes in your salad. This way you are not only creating healthy but also tasty foods!