Tuesday, June 28, 2011

Project prevent cancer--diet--lycopene

Is it a fruit? Is it a vegetable? The argument continues over which the tomato may be. One point in which there is no argument is in the fact that -be it fruit or vegetable- it is considered to be the top dietary source of lycopene. Why should that matter? What exactly is Lycopene? Lycopene is a member of the carotenoid family of phytochemicals. A who of what? Carotenoids are natural pigments found in plants and animals responsible for the red color of tomato, watermelon and pink grapefruit. Phytochemicals are what is involved in the chemical process of plant life and the chemical compounds produced by plants. More than 600 known natural carotenoids are synthesized in plants. More over, Carotenoids are antioxidants that play an important role in health maintenance. They reduce the impact of the oxidative damage caused by free radicals. Lycopene, phytoene*, phytofluene*, and beta-carotene* belong to this group. Lycopene has a unique structure that is responsible for its ability to protect us from harmful oxidizing agents called free radicals.*

Free Radicals are implicated in cancer, heart disease, macular degeneration and other age related diseases. A review of different studies have shown that the more tomatoes and tomato products people eat, the lower their risks of many kinds of cancer. In fact, a diet rich in lycopene may also be heart protective.

Lycopene rich foods help prevent the oxidation of cholesterol slowing the developement of atheroscierosis. (Say that word really fast) Atheroscierosis- --associated with the formation of atheromas-deposits of small fatty nodules on the inner walls of the arteries, often accompanied by degeneration of the affected area..arterial plaque.**

Studies show that not only does eating vegetables high in lycopene reduce the risks of some cancers, and provide a strong antioxidant it is shown that combined with other carotenoids it may help reduce sunburn. Among the many possibilities of Lycopene's benefits studies have returned with mixed results bringing the need for more studies.

Lycopene does not get converted into Vitamin A. The health benefits of Lycopene are attributed mainly to its powerful antioxidant properties. Lycopene is commonly located in the cell membranes. It plays an important role in preventing oxidative damage to membrane lipids, influencing the thickness, strength, and fluidity of the membrane. Maintaining cell membrane integrity is key in prevention of disease.

Lycopene is not formed in the body. It is obtained by eating foods rich in Lycopene such a tomato products. Some of the foods rich in Lycopene are:

Cooked tomatoes int he form of ketchup, tomato sauce, pizza sauce, and tomato juice.


Red Peppers-capsicums



Dark colored grapefruits



Lycopene is best digested when it is consumed in cooked tomato products rather than fresh tomaotes. Studies indicate that heat processing released up to 2.5 times the lycopene from tomatoes. Because lycopene is fat soluable it is better absorbed by adding a small amount of oil.

A high intake of foods containing Lycopene are not known to cause any ill side effects however excessive consumption can cause a deep orange discoloration of the skin. Some research indicates that cigarette smoke may cause lycopene to become oxidized. This may explain in part the research findings that cigarette smokers who take carotenoid supplements may have an increased risk of cancer or heart disease.

It is possible that lycopene may increase the cholesterol lowering effects of some medications. Some cholesterol lowering medications lower the blood levels of carotenoids. In addition, margarines enriched with synthetic plant steroids such as Benecol or Take Control may decrease the absorbtion of carotenoids. Olestra, a fat substitute may also reduce the absorption of carotenoids.

Signs of lycopene deficiency due to an inadequate intake over a period of years may set the development of several chronic diseases( such as heart disease and cancer) due to increasing the body's susceptibility to damage by free radicals.

*phytoene, carotenoid found naturally in tomatoes. Findings indicate it acts in synergy with lycopene in prevention of cell damage.

*phytofluene, carotenoid found naturally in tomatoes. Recent findings indicate it works in senergy with lycopene in prevention of cell damage.

beta-carotene, a carotenoid found in many fruits and vegetables, including tomatoes. Used by the body to produce vitamin A.

* Free radicals are aggressive chemicals that occur as part of a normal cell metabolism but their numbers in the organism increase when it is exposed to damaging environmental influences. Free radicals have been implicated in accelerated aging and the development of degenerative diseases.

*Atheroscierosis definition thanks to Webster's New World College Dictionary fourth edition.













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