Lycopene: An Antioxidant Health Supplement

Lycopene: an Antioxidant for Good Health

Antioxidants have disease-fighting properties that protect cells from damage by substances know as free radicals. Antioxidants work by rendering ineffective harmful free radicals that are formed when our cells burn oxygen for energy. Antioxidants may also help to keep the immune system healthy and reduce the risk for some forms of cancers and other diseases. Vitamins including vitamin C, vitamin E, beta-carotene and lycopene are considered to be effective antioxidants.

What is lycopene?

Lycopene in particular has been the focus of much research in recent years. Lycopene is a pigment that gives vegetables and fruits, such as tomatoes, pink grapefruit and watermelon, their red coloring. More importantly, lycopene also appears to exhibit strong antioxidant capabilities. A number of studies suggest that a diet high in lycopene may be associated with a lower risk of prostate cancer and cardiovascular disease.

In the mid 1990s a Harvard University study conducted with nearly 50,000 men found that eating 10 or more servings a week of tomato products – which are high in lycopene - was associated with a reduced risk of prostate cancer by as much as 34 percent in some cases.

The beneficial effect of antioxidants on heart disease has been well documented. In a recent study, men who with the highest concentration of lycopene in their body fat were only 50 as likely to have a heart attack as those men with lower concentration of lycopene in their body fat. And researchers strongly believe that the level of lycopene in body fat is directly correlated to the amount lycopene content in the diet.

Where do I find lycopene?

Since lycopene is not produced naturally by the human body it must be obtained through diet. Tomato products, such as spaghetti sauce, tomato juice, ketchup and pizza sauce are, by far, the major sources of lycopene in the typical American diet. In fact, these foods provide over 80 percent of the lycopene consumed in the U.S. Other fruits and vegetables such as watermelon and pink grapefruit also provide lycopene but in smaller amounts.

PUBLISHED BY AMERICAN DIETETIC ASSOCIATION

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