What is Lycopene
The word “Lycopene” is derived from a Latin word “lycopersicum” which is name of a tomato species. Lycopene is a carotenoid (pigment) and phytochemical ( a substance that occurs naturally in plants) which are present in fruits and vegetables of red, pink and orange colors such as watermelons, tomatoes, papayas, pink grapefruits and guava. They are also found in the juice of tomato and other processed food like tomato sauce, ketchup and all forms of processed tomato products. It is this pigment which is responsible for the red color in these products.
Lycopene is also a powerful antioxidant which helps in protecting and lowering the risks against numerous degenerative diseases including cancers of various types like lung, cervical, digestive tract, breast, mouth, esophagus, colon, stomach, intestines, rectum and particularly prostate cancer which refer to the cancer that develops in the gland of a male reproductive system called prostate. Lycopene also helps in a long way in preventing any DNA damage in the cells and enhances better functioning of the cells. With increased levels of lycopene in blood, there is a considerable reduction in the oxidized cholesterol levels. There are also results of reduced risk of arteriosclerosis by reducing inflammation and as well keeps the skin protected from UV rays exposure. Intake of tomato products on a daily basis have proved a 30 percent increase in the ability of the skin to withstand against radiation caused by sun exposure.
Studies have proved the correlation between reduced risk of cancer, macular degeneration and other heart diseases with high levels of this pigment in the fatty tissues and blood. Protection against the diseases is done by neutralizing the free radicals which are normally blamed for damaging the cells. Proven studies show that high levels of lycopene in men in their fatty tissues have almost 50 percent reduced chance of heart diseases. The risk of prostate cancer is also found reduced by 20-35 percent in men who consumed products of tomato atleast twice in a week. High levels of lycopene in women have proved to reduce the rate of cervical cancer by almost five times.
Though lycopene is not considered as one among the essential nutrients for humans, it is commonly found in all the dishes prepared out of tomatoes. Products made of processed tomatoes contain higher levels of lycopene than the level found in raw tomatoes. The reason behind is, when the tomatoes are cooked, their cell walls are broken down which leads to availability of more lycopene. Thus if a ripe tomato contains 3.6 milligrams of lycopene, a cup of soup made of that tomato might contain 24 milligrams of lycopene. Olive oil has a capacity to improve the absorbing capacity of the body of lycopene. Thus by topping a tomato salad with little bit of olive oil will help in better absorption of the lycopene present in the tomatoes. Apart from natural source, lycopene is also available in the supplement form of tablets and capsules. However, their dosage limit is not yet established.
There is good news at the end also. Lycopene is one of the common ingredients in all the anti- ageing creams. With this, undoubtedly all of you must have decided to add tomatoes in your diet every day. After all, more benefit with little efforts is what all of us look for. Isn’t it??