Lycopene is a fat soluble pigment that can be found in a number of fruits and vegetables such as tomatoes, watermelon, pink grapefruit, papaya and guava. It has recently been discovered to be a powerful antioxidant and is recommended in a healthy diet for its ability to protect against the negative effects of light and oxygen on the body.

In the typical diet, tomato products are the most common source of lycopene. Foods like ketchup, tomato sauce, and tomato juice are rich sources of the antioxidant. Interestingly, prepared foods like tomato sauce and ketchup contain more lycopene than fresh tomatoes because the effect that cooking has on carotenoids. During the cooking process, the cell walls are broken down and the carotenoids are released and concentrated in the foods. These types of products account for more than eighty percent of the lycopene consumed.

Lycopene as an antioxidant helps to eliminate the harmful effect that free radicals have on the body. Many health problems are connected to the effects of free radicals such as heart disease, cancer, illnesses related to aging and macular degeneration.

Many of the studies that have been conducted on tomatoes and their health benefits have concluded that the more tomato products that are eaten the lower the risk for a variety of different types of cancer such as prostate, stomach and lung cancer. There is also evidence to suggest that lycopene has a benefit in the prevention of cancers of the pancreas, rectum and colon, breast, esophagus and cervix.

Studies have also discovered the health benefit of lycopene on the heart and cardiovascular system. Blood pressure and the health of the bones are also positively benefited by lycopene in the diet.

There is a controversy over the use of lycopene supplements and whether they have as much of a health benefit as the lycopene that is found naturally in foods. One of the reasons that many scientists do not find lycopene supplements beneficial is because the lycopene may need other ingredients in tomatoes to provide the health benefits.

In a recent study, lycopene was given to rats with prostate cancer using both methods. Some of the rats were given lycopene from a tomato source, others were given a supplement and some were given a placebo. The rats that received the lycopene from tomatoes were twenty five percent less likely to die from the cancer as those who were not treated and the rats receiving a supplement did only slightly better than the placebo group. Currently, this information seems to show that lycopene found in tomatoes is the best source of the antioxidant.

There has also been some study on the effect of lycopene on the skin. In a recent study lycopene was found to provide a protective effect on the skin from UV light. While a sunscreen will provide protection on the exterior of the skin, there is some evidence that suggests that lycopene will protect the skin from burning on the inside.

The benefits of lycopene can best be found in tomato products when they are cooked. In particular, when tomatoes are cooked with fats such as olive oil, the concentration of lycopene is at its highest. This means that tomato sauces and pastes are excellent sources of the antioxidant.

Lycopene is an affordable way to introduce antioxidants to your diet. Tomatoes can be added to a number of dishes which make it a convenient and easy diet change that most people can incorporate easily. The jury is out on lycopene supplements and it seems for now that including the foods that contain the antioxidant in its natural form is the best way to get the health benefits.

Antioxidants are powerful anti aging supplements and can be found in a number of food sources. Adding these powerhouse supplements to your diet can help to prevent the chronic conditions that are associated with aging.


Last updated on Sep 4th, 2009 and filed under Nutritional Information. Both comments and pings are currently closed.

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