Lycopene is a red pigment found in red fruits and vegetables, most notably tomatoes. Ingested lycopene travels in the blood and accumulates in the liver, adrenal glands, prostate and colon. According to MedlinePlus, lycopene is an antioxidant and has been shown to have properties that may help prevent tumor growth. A high intake of lycopene has been associated with a reduced risk of cancer, cardiovascular disease and macular degeneration.
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The January 2010 issue of “Endocrine-Related Cancer” says that both rodent and human studies have indicated that lycopene may prevent or slow the progression of prostate cancer. The paper reports that when 32 patients diagnosed with prostate cancer were supplemented with 30mg lycopene daily from tomato sauce for three weeks, they had increased apoptosis of cancer cells compared with unsupplemented patients. Apoptosis is controlled cell death. The authors concluded that tomato sauce consumption may inhibit the progression of prostate cancer in some patients.
A review in the December 2010 issue of “Maturitas” analyzed 12 studies investigating the effects of consumption of lycopene on cholesterol and blood pressure. In studies using lycopene dosages of at least 25mg daily, total cholesterol was significantly reduced by 7.55mg/dl and LDL cholesterol by 10.35mg/dl. However, studies using lower dosages found no effect. On the other hand, all studies found that lycopene consumption lowered systolic blood pressure. The authors conclude that lycopene consumption is protective against heart disease but state that more research is needed.
The November 2002 issue of “Experimental Biology and Medicine” says that although evidence is limited, consumption of lycopene may protect against macular degeneration. The authors state that lycopene accumulates in parts of the eye and may provide protection by antioxidant and light-screening mechanisms. Lycopene and other carotenoids also might be useful in the treatment of glaucoma.
Like other carotenoids, lycopene is an antioxidant and helps prevent oxidative damage by free radicals. The February 2010 issue of “Molecules” says that the antioxidant properties of lycopene might make it useful in the prevention of cancers, cardiovascular disease, diabetes and other conditions.