Lycopene’s effect against conditions that induce cancer:
A new study, appearing in December’s Journal of National Cancer Institute, suggests that individuals with a taste for ketchup, tomato juice or pasta sauce may have an advantage against prostate cancer. The pigment that gives red color to tomatoes is a part of a family of pigments called carotenoids, which occur naturally in fruits and vegetables.
The majority of our lycopene consumption comes from tomatoes, although it can be found in pink grapefruit and watermelon. The chemical form of lycopene found in processed tomato-based foods is absorbed more efficiently than the lycopene found in fresh tomatoes. Lycopene is also a powerful antioxidant, which neutralizes harmful free radicals that have been linked to various forms of cancer, including prostate cancer. Levels of lycopene are significantly lower in prostate and breast cancer patients. It has been suggested that lycopene is the first line of defense and once the lycopene levels are low, then other antioxidants (like vitamin E) take part to diffuse damaging effects of free radicals.
The JNCI study suggests that lycopene supplementation to maintain normal levels in prostate cancer patients may slow the progression of the disease. Some other research work suggests that 5-10 mg of lycopene daily may be sufficient for healthy people.