Discover the Benefits of Lycopene - Your Best Defense Against Cancer
Welcome to the 6th issue of Discover The Power of Healing Foods! newsletter. You can read the entire issue on line by clicking here.
In our previous issues we discussed how lutein and zeaxanthin are two very important antioxidants and here we can find them. If you've missed those issues catch up here.
(If you've missed those issues catch up by clicking on the links.)
In this issue we will discuss:
Lycopene is a phytochemical belonging to the carotenoids family and is the pigment that gives tomatoes their red colour.
Lycopene packs an antioxidant punch at least two to three times more potent than that of beta carotene and has stirred the interest of the scientific community for its anti-carcinogenic effects.
Lycopene protects against cell damage by preventing free radicals from damaging cells, including the DNA inside the cell. It's damage to DNA that actually leads healthy cells to turn cancerous and to create all sorts of health problems.
Consider just some of the health benefits of lycopene that have been discovered so far, but I suspect we'll hear much more about this powerful antioxidant as studies keep piling up.
Of all the carotenoids, lycopene tends to have the most potent anti-cancer properties. Lycopene seems to have the special property of improving communications between cancer cells and normal cells, which is thought to force cancer cells to revert to normal behaviour.
Perhaps one of the better well-known benefits of lycopene is in relation to its ability to prevent prostate cancer. This is understandable if you consider that lycopene is found in high concentration in the prostate gland, where it plays a role in protecting against abnormal cellular proliferation.
A study reported in the Journal of the National Cancer Institute showed found a 45% lower risk of prostate cancer in men who regularly consumed ten or more servings of tomatoes or tomato-based foods per week than in those who did not.
Those who only ate four to seven servings a week - less than one a day - still came out ahead, with a 20% reduction risk. It wasn't only whole tomatoes that provided the benefits either. Pizza, tomato juice and other tomato-based foods also were protective.
The good news is that lycopene may even shrink existing prostate tumours, according to Wayne State University investigators. They found that giving lycopene supplements to patients for only three weeks prior to surgery reduced prostate tumour size in 80% of men. More remarkable, the tumour did not spread beyond the prostate gland in 73% of men on lycopene; it did spread in 82% not getting lycopene.
Apart form protecting against prostate cancer, this powerful antioxidant also protects against cancers of the digestive tract (the colon, esophagus, mouth, rectum, stomach and throat), as well as cancer of the bladder, cervix, lung and pancreas.
Research found a 40% reduction of esophageal cancer by simply consuming one serving of raw tomatoes per week and a 50% reduced rate of cancers of all sites among elderly Americans reporting a high tomato intake.
Eating lycopene rich tomatoes has been shown to shield lungs from bad air and cigarette smoke.
In a study carried out in North Carolina, people who drank a 12-ounce can of tomato-rich V-8 juice daily over the course of three week had less DNA damage in lung cells than those not getting V-8. Other research suggests lycopene helps ward off lung cancer.
Lycopene prevents free radicals from disrupting the balance of new bone formation with the bone loss that naturally occurs with age. When that balance is thrown off, bone loss exceeds bone formation, causing the brittle bone disease osteoporosis.
Lycopene exerts a protective effect against UV skin damage, which suggested a potential inverse connection between lycopene and skin cancer.
The lycopene in tomatoes may reduce sun damage by 35%. One cup of tomatoes daily is what you need to increase your protection from sun damage.
Studies have shown that this phytonutrient neutralizes harmful free radicals created by the sun’s UVA and UVB rays.
Lycopene contributes to heart health by preventing oxidation of LDL cholesterol, hence hindering plaque build-up.
In one test, eating 60 mg. of lycopene daily (the amount in 1 1/2 cups of tomato sauce or 2.2 pounds of fresh tomatoes) for three months reduced LDL cholesterol by 14%.
In a major European study, lycopene was shown to be effective in preventing heart attacks. Men who consumed large amounts of lycopene had only half the risk of a heart attack compared with men who took small amounts. The protective effect was most marked among non-smokers.
In the previous newsletter, we mentioned how important lutein and zeaxanthin are for the eyes, well now we find out that lycopene too is very important for eye health.
Studies have identified protective effects for lycopene against oxidative damage in the human lens and reduced incidence of cataracts. A survey of 372 older people also found that the risk of cataract was lowest in the people with the highest blood concentration of lycopene.
Lycopene may also protect the eyes by deterring macular degeneration, a serious cause of vision loss especially among older people, suggests University of Maryland research that found high levels of lycopene in eye tissue.
All lycopene-rich foods are an anti-aging nourishment for the brain. In a class study at the University of Kentucky, elderly women with the highest lycopene blood levels remained the most mentally and physically active.
According to a detailed analysis of the levels of carotenoids in 120 fruits and vegetables, very few contained lycopene. The table below illustrates lycopene levels in some of those foods.
||Amount of lycopene per 100 g.
||Portion size (g.)
||2 (1 piece)
||15 (1 tbsp)
|Tomato puree, canned
||15 (1 tbsp)
|Tomato sauce, canned
||125 (1/2 medium)
||85 (1 medium)
||140 (average slice)
||40 (5 apricots)
The chart below might make it easier for you to see which foods have more lycopene:
About 85% of our lycopene comes from tomatoes but other sources are: cherries, red pepper, persimmons, blood oranges, strawberries and other red-pigmented fruits and vegetables.
- Eat at least five weekly servings of lycopene-rich foods.
- Interestingly, tomato juices and sauces are a more concentrated source of lycopene than are fresh, whole tomatoes. Tests showed that over a two-week period, blood lycopene rose 192% from a daily serving of tomato sauce, 122% from tomato soup and 92% from V-8 juice.
- In many cases, cooking fruits and vegetables destroys important nutrients and enzymes, but that is not the case with tomatoes. Cooking tomatoes actually increases the absorption of lycopene as a nutrient. For instance, ketchup contains five to six times more antioxidant lycopene than raw tomatoes do. Research shows that adding or cooking tomatoes with a little oil also make lycopene more available for absorption.
- Lycopene from fresh watermelon appears to be absorbed well without requiring heating or processing.
What if you're intolerant to tomatoes like I am, or if you don't eat many lycopene-rich foods? You don't need to loose out on the benefits of lycopene.
You can choose a lycopene supplement or, even better, a supplement that contains a mixture of carotenoids - alpha carotene, beta carotene, lycopene, lutein and zeaxanthin. Look at my page on Lycopene Supplements for some suggestions.
Take carotenoid supplements with foods that contain a little fat, which allows the body to absorb them more effectively.
To take two smaller doses each day is better than to take a larger one all at once.
I hope you have enjoyed reading this newsletter. So far we've discussed several antioxidant carotenoids, beta carotene, lutein and zeaxanthin, and lycopene. Next time, I'll discuss another important category of phytonutrients, flavonoids, how they help us to prevent disease and where to find them.
Look out for the next newsletter, you don't want to miss it!
Also, if this newsletter has raised some questions in your mind about antioxidants or you'd like specific information on them, don't hesitate to get in touch with me.
The next issue will be sent out on Wed 17th April 2013.
Until Next Time
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