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Carotenoids - Lycopene
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Alchemist WebPick Awarded by the webzine of ChemWeb.com
LYCOPENE - The Ultimate Phytochemical Nutraceutical?
by John C. Leffingwell, Ph.D.
 

 

Lycopene, a carotenoid found in tomato products, prevents oxidation of low density lipoprotein (LDL) cholesterol and reduces the risk of developing atherosclerosis and coronary heart disease according to a recent study published in the October 1998 issue of Lipids (Agarwal, S., and Rao A.V.; Tomato lycopene and low-density lipoprotein oxidation: a human dietary intervention study. Lipids, 33, 981-984 (1998). This study showed that daily consumption of tomato products providing at least 40 mg of lycopene was enough to substantially reduce low density lipoprotein (LDL) oxidation. High LDL oxidation is associated with increased risk of atherosclerosis and coronary heart disease. This lycopene level can be achieved by drinking just two glasses of tomato juice a day. Research shows that lycopene in tomatoes can be absorbed more efficiently by the body if processed into tomato juice, sauce, paste and ketchup. The bound chemical form of lycopene found in tomatoes is converted by the temperature changes involved in processing to make it more easily absorbed by the body. Ongoing research suggests that lycopene can reduce the risk of prostate cancer and cancers of the lung, bladder, cervix and skin.

Recent Lycopene Studies

At the American Association for Cancer Research meeting held April 12, 1999 in Philadelphia, Dr. Omar Kucuk of Karmanos Cancer Institute in Detroit reported a study involving 33 men who were randomly assigned to take lycopene or nothing for 30 days before their prostate operations. Before surgery, the volunteers showed no obvious signs that their cancer had spread. After surgery, the doctors found that cancer tissue was less likely to extend clear to the edges of the lycopene users' prostate glands. And pre-cancerous cells in their prostates were less abnormal-looking.

Kucuk warned that his study is small, and cautioned against routine use of lycopene supplements without further evidence.

One of the most influential pieces of research on tomatoes and cancer was a large Harvard study released in 1995. It followed the eating habits of 47,000 men for six years. Those who had at least 10 weekly servings of tomato-based foods were up to 45 percent less likely to develop prostate cancer. In an analysis published (J Natl Cancer Inst 1999 Feb 17;91(4):317-31 ), Edward Giovannucci of Harvard Medical School reviewed 72 studies that looked for a link between cancer risk and food made with tomatoes. In all, 57 linked tomato intake with a reduced risk, and in 35 of these, the association was strong enough to be considered statistically meaningful.

Furthermore, Riso and co-workers at the University of Milan in Italy have concluded that the consumption of tomato products may reduce the susceptibility of lymphocyte DNA to oxidative damage (Am J Clin Nutr 1999 Apr;69(4):712-8 ).

Suganuma and Inakuma of the Research Institute, Kagome Co. Ltd., Tochigi, Japan studied the effects of dietary ingestion of tomato in mice that had been made hypercholesterolemic. The results indicate that tomato has a preventive effect on atherosclerosis by protecting plasma lipids from oxidation (Biosci Biotechnol Biochem 1999 Jan;63(1):78-82 ).

 

In contrast to the rather "extended" claims made for many nutriceutical and herbal products, it appears that lycopene is certainly a truly phenomenal material. And one that is available to anyone that wants it - and for a price that is affordable to nearly everyone. In fact, the table below as summarized by Nguyen and Schwartz [in Lyopene: Chemical and biological properties. Food Technol., 53(2): 38- 45 (1999)] shows that just drinking 3 8-oz glasses of a processed vegetable juice such as V-8(R) will provide in excess of the 40 mg per day of lycopene suggested for reducing LDL cholesterol.

 

Amount

Amount

Food

Food Form

(mg/100g)

mg per serving

Serving Size

Apricots

Fresh

0.005

0.007

140 g

Apricots

Canned, drained

0.065

0.091

140 g

Apricots

Dried

0.86

0.34

40 g

Chili

Processed

1.08-2.62

1.40-3.41

130 g

Grapefruit

Pink, fresh

3.36

4.70

140g

Guava

Pink, fresh

5.40

7.56

140 g

Guava juice

Pink, processed

3.34

8.35

240 ml - 250 g

Ketchup

Processed

16.60

3.32

1 tbsp. - 20 g

Papaya

Red, fresh

2.00-5.30

2.8-7.42

1409.00

Pizza sauce

Canned

12.71

15.89

125 g

Pizza sauce

From pizza

32.89

9.867

slice - 30 g

Rosehip puree

Canned

0.78

0.47

60 g

Salsa

Processed

9.28

3.71

2 tbsp. - 40 g

Spaghetti sauce

Processed

17.50

21.88

125 g

Tomatoes

Red, fresh

3.1-7.74

4.03-10.06

130 g

Tomatoes

Whole, peeled, processed

11.21

14,01

125 g

Tomato juice

Processed

7.83

19,58

240 mL - 250 g

Tomato soup

Canned, condensed

3.99

9.77

245 g

Tomato paste

Canned

30.07

9.02

30 g

Watermelon

Red, fresh

4.10

11.48

280 g

Vegetable juice

Processed

7.28

17.47

240 mL - 250 g

For additional information on Lycopene click the image below to go to this web site.

Lycopene & Related References

Year

Reference

1998

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