We have always been told that fruits and vegetables are good for our bodies. Yet for years, the reason behind it lay just beyond our grasp. Fortunately, the patience and diligence of many scientists and nutrition experts has finally uncovered the mystery of the health benefits of fruits and vegetables.
Now, science has gained a better understanding of why fruits and vegetables should be part of a healthy eating plan. Not only do we enjoy the many flavors and bright colors, but we also benefit from eating these wonderful food sources. This eating pattern is packed with plenty of beneficial nutrients, vitamins, and minerals. Fruits, especially, are rich sources of antioxidants, such as vitamin C, vitamin E, beta-carotene and lycopene.
What is Lycopene?
Lycopene is a carotenoid, a substance commonly found in tomato products. It is responsible for giving the red color to tomato products. Lycopene in plants is similar to any other carotenoids. They serve as light-absorbing pigments, playing a vital role in the food-giving process of photosynthesis.
As an antioxidant, lycopene has garnered much attention especially when medical research led to the discovery that antioxidants have disease-fighting properties. Antioxidants are substances that protect cells from damage by neutralizing damage-causing elements, called free radicals.
There are many reported health benefits of lycopene. Recent studies attribute most of its benefits on its ability to protect cells against damage caused by free radicals, which are elements formed during oxidation. Compared to other dietary carotenoids, there is less research focused on lycopene. Yet, despite this, the studies conducted all share the mutual suggestion that lycopene is one of the more potent scavengers of oxygen radicals.
According to a recent study published in the October 1998 issue of Lipids, lycopene helps prevent oxidation of low density lipoprotein (LDL) cholesterol, considered to be “bad” cholesterol found in the body. Also, lycopene can reduce the risk of developing atherosclerosis and coronary heart disease.
The antioxidant actions of lycopene have triggered many scientists to examine all the benefits the substance can bring. Evidence based on human intervention studies show that lycopene has anti-cancer effects in that it can successfully inhibit the formation of cancer cells or retard their development.
Two large case-control studies show a link between lycopene and reduced digestive tract cancer. One study in northern Iran, where esophageal cancer is common found that consuming tomato can actually reduce cancer risk up to 40%. Also, more recently in Italy, another study found that seven or more servings of tomato products per week are associated with a 50% reduced cancer risk compared to less than two servings of tomato per week.
Lycopene is associated with preventing various types of cancer. According to recently published study in Italy, lycopene can significantly lower down the risk of getting colon cancer. Animal studies on rat tumors also found that the substance can deter the formation of tumor. The relationship between prostate cancer and lycopene has also been thoroughly examined. In one prospective study, a group of Seventh Day Adventist men showed that those who consumed more tomatoes had less possibility of getting cancer of the prostate.
TOTAL WORD COUNT – 520
KEYWORDS “Lycopene” – 17 (density = 3.3%)