Tomatoes, Lycopene & Health Benefits
Emerging research across the world suggests that lycopene provides health benefits. Lycopene may help to prevent prostate cancer, in addition to other forms of cancer, heart disease and other serious diseases.
Lycopene is a powerful antioxidant, it is an open-chain unsaturated carotenoid that is involved in the red colour of tomatoes, guava, rosehip and watermelon. An antioxidant is responsible for neutralizing free radicals which may damage the body’s cells. Oxidative damage has been linked to the onset of many degenerative diseases such as cancer, atherosclerosis, cataracts, and age-related macular degeneration as well as to premature aging. Free radicals arise from normal cell metabolism, pollution and general exposure to the environment.
Considerable work is currently occurring across the world into the health benefits of lycopene, and processed tomato products. Studies have been undertaken that show processed tomato products are a greater source of lycopene than fresh tomatoes. It appears that the process of heating the tomato causes the destruction of the cells, which in turn liberates the carotenoid and enables it to dissolve in fats. This may assist the body to more readily absorb the lycopene.
A study has shown that the best source of lycopene in the American diet is processed tomato products, with the key items being ketchup, spaghetti sauce, tomato sauce, canned tomatoes, tomato soup, tomato juice and vegetable juice (CTGA Magazine, March/April 2003). In addition to lycopene, processed tomato products form part of a healthy diet consisting of regular consumption of fruit and vegetables.
Prostate cancer and its prevention has been the focus of much lycopene research. More recently research has also been conducted on the benefits of lycopene on a range of diseases.
UV exposure results in a reduction in antioxidants in the skin and blood. Research has shown that antioxidant supplements in conjunction with sunscreen can help to lower the risk of sunburn. The antioxidant may be obtained from a healthy diet, including sources of lycopene.