This is an antioxidant compound that gives tomatoes and certain other fruits and vegetables their color.
It's one of the major carotenoids in the diet of North Americans and Europeans.
And it's one of several kinds of carotenoids known for their antioxidant properties.
And, they appear to help prevent prostate cancer.
Studies that looked at lycopene levels in human blood found that levels were quite a bit higher after people ate cooked tomatoes than after they ate raw tomatoes or drank tomato juice.
This suggests that the levels of lycopenes in cooked tomato products such as tomato sauce or paste, may be more readily absorbed by the body than in raw tomatoes.
Eating lycopene-rich vegetables and fruits together with a small amount of oil or fat (for example, salad oil or cheese on pizza) increases the amount absorbed by the intestines.
It also may decrease the risk and growth of other cancers and may make your arteries younger.
You should eat 4 or 5 servings of fruit per day to make your real age as much as 4 years younger.
Tomatoes are the most concentrated food source, although apricots, guava, watermelon, papaya, and pink grapefruit are also significant sources.
Pink and red fruits are generally rich in lycopene.
Guava fruit contains nearly 50 percent more cancer-fighting lycopenes than the tomato.
Found in rich amounts in tomatoes, lycopene may possess powerful cancer-preventative abilities.
Let’s start with a Harvard-based study that reviewed all the evidence on both lycopenes and the tomato’s cancer-preventative abilities.
The researcher’s conclusion was this: “Evidence is strongest for cancers of the lung, stomach, and prostate gland and is suggestive for cancers of the cervix, breast, oral cavity, pancreas, colon and esophagus.”
Researchers showed that high intake of lycopenes from tomatoes reduced the risk of prostate cancer by 21%.
It was also linked to a 35% lower risk of total prostate cancer, and a 53% lower risk of advanced cancer.
Another study using lycopene supplements, tested 15 milligrams (mg.) on 26 men with prostate cancer for three weeks before they underwent a major surgery.
The men had reduced cancer growth after the surgery was completed.
A second study treated 26 men tested a tomato extract containing 30 mg. of lycopenes in the same way, before surgery.
It led to much smaller tumors and far less significant spread of the tumor outside of the prostate.
In yet another study, 54 patients had a surgical procedure to remove the testes.
They tested some of them with an added 4 mg. a day of lycopene supplement.
The nutrient helped shrink the tumor, lessen pain, and improve the surgery.
These are small, yet promising studies.
Experts studied the relationship between 17 micro-nutrients and breast cancer risk in 289 women with confirmed breast cancer and 442 control subjects.
They found that a higher lycopene intake reduced the breast cancer risk.
The patients took an average of 6.2 mg. a day.
Ovarian and Cervical Cancers
A large study of 549 patients with ovarian cancer found that a higher intake of lycopenes was associated with a reduced risk for ovarian cancer, mainly in postmenopausal women.
Another large population study found that women with higher blood levels of lycopene had a 33% lower risk of getting cervical cancer.
It's well known that colon polyps or adenomas are precursors to colon cancer.
German researchers studied the relationship between blood levels of lycopene and these polyps.
The results: people who ate the most tomatoes and tomato products had higher blood levels of lycopene and were protected from colon adenomas.
But there may be a special special variety containing a more easily absorbed antioxidant, scientists are reporting.
Food scientists at Ohio State University in Columbus have grown a special variety of orange tomatoes that may be healthier than garden-variety red tomatoes.
The orange tomatoes contain this type of antioxidant that is more readily used by the body than the type of lycopenes found in red tomatoes, they report.
Lycopenes are an antioxidant thought to have a number of health benefits such as reducing the risk of cancers, heart disease and age-related eye problems.
Scientists had 12 adult volunteers eat two spaghetti test meals on separate occasions.
One meal was made with sauce from the orange tomatoes and the other with sauce from red tomatoes.
For 13 days before the test meals, the volunteers avoided eating tomatoes or food made with them.
Blood samples taken from each subject right before the spaghetti meals and every hour or two up to 10 hours after the meals were analyzed for their content.
Results showed that lycopene absorption from the orange tomato sauce was 2.5 times higher than that absorbed from the red tomato sauce.
Blood-lycopene levels spiked about 5 hours after the orange tomato sauce meal and at this time the levels were some 200 times higher than those seen after the red tomato sauce meal.
While red tomatoes contain far more lycopene than orange tomatoes, most of it is in a form that the body doesn’t absorb well, a professor of food science and technology at Ohio State, explained in a university-issued statement.
The people in the study actually consumed less lycopene when they ate sauce made from the orange tomatoes, but they absorbed far more than they would have if it had come from red tomatoes, it was noted.
The orange tomatoes are not as yet, readily available at grocery stores; they were grown at an Ohio State-affiliated agricultural research center.
Schwartz and colleagues suggest that interested consumers could seek out orange or gold-colored heirloom tomatoes as an alternative.
Here's a great recipe to up your intake of Lycopene;
Tomato & Fennel Salad
We like to use a variety of tomatoes in this simple, but very tasty salad.
They’re at their peak during the summer months and worth seeking out at your local grocery store or farmers’ market.
Which varieties you choose is up to you, as any and all will work great.
Makes 4 servings, about 1 c. each
Active Time: 10 minutes
Total Time: 10 minutes
1 Tbs. extra-virgin olive oil
1 Tbs. champagne vinegar or white-wine vinegar
1/2 tsp. sea salt
Freshly ground pepper to taste
1 lb. tomatoes, cut into wedges
2 c. thinly sliced fennel bulb
1/4 c. chopped fresh parsley
1/3 c. toasted pine nuts (see Tip)
Whisk oil, vinegar, salt and pepper in a large bowl until combined.
Add your tomatoes, fennel, parsley and pine nuts; toss to coat.
How simple is that?
12 g. Fat (1 g. Saturated, 5 g. Mono-unsaturated);
0 mg. Cholesterol;
9 g. Carbohydrate;
3 g. Protein;
3 g. Fiber;
321 mg. Sodium;
513 mg. Potassium.
Nutrition Bonus: Vitamin-C (40% daily value), Vitamin-A (25% dv), Potassium (15% dv).
TIP: Toast pine nuts in a small dry skillet over medium-low heat, stirring constantly, until fragrant and lightly browned, 3 to 5 minutes.Tweet
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