What is lycopene? What are lycopene health benefits?
Lycopene is a carotenoid pigment with strong antioxidant activities. It is the bright red color found in red fruits and vegetables. Carotenoids are compounds that include alpha carotene, beta carotene and tocopherol. But unlike all other carotenes, lycopene is not converted to vitamin A.
Among foods with high level of lycopene are pink guava, red ripe tomatoes, tomato sauce, red watermelons and rose hips. Rose hip and watermelon has higher nutrient value of lycopene compared to red ripe raw tomatoes. But compared to all these raw red fruits and vegetables, the nutrient value of lycopene in a 100gm of tomato sauce is 17163mcg, which is very high. The reason behind it is that, unlike other fruits or vegetables, when tomatoes are processed, the amount of lycopene is increased.
The American Journal of Clinical Nutrition, Vol. 78, No. 6, 1219-1224, December 2003 published an article that supports the hypothesis that lycopene contributes to the protective effect of high tomato intakes against the risk of colorectal adenomas. Colorectal stands for colon or large bowel and adenoma is benign tumor.
One of the possible reasons is because lycopene has an anti proliferative property where it is able to slow down cell growth. Since it is also an antioxidant, one of the benefits of lycopene is that it may improve cardiovascular health and reduce the risk of certain cancers.
One of the other known benefits of lycopene is to support prostrate health. After taking in food that contains lycopene, it is absorbed in the stomach and transported through the blood by proteins and lipids to fatty tissues and organs. It is stored in the liver, adrenal glands, lungs, testes and colon, highest being in the testes.
Another lycopene benefits is that it may reduce age-related macular degeneration which is a loss of vision because of damage to the retina. It usually affects older adults who are over the age of 50.
Because tomato sauce or ketchup is easily included in everyone's diet, lycopene supplement may be unnecessary. But if by any chance that you don't get enough of lycopene in your diet, lycopene supplement from ripe tomatoes extract are available in soft gel capsules and tablets.
So far, there is no report of lycopene side effects either from eating fruits and vegetables or from taking lycopene supplement.