Lycopene has been the focus of much research in recent years. Lycopene is the pigment that gives vegetables and fruits, such as tomatoes, pink grapefruit and watermelon, their red color. More importantly though, lycopene also appears to show strong antioxidant capabilities.
Antioxidants posses disease-fighting properties that protect healthy cells from damage by substances know as free radicals. When our cells burn oxygen for energy they produce harmful waste known as free radicals, antioxidants render these harmful by products ineffective.
What is lycopene?
Lycopene has been the focus of much research in recent years. Lycopene is the pigment that gives vegetables and fruits, such as tomatoes, pink grapefruit and watermelon, their red color. More importantly though, lycopene also appears to show strong antioxidant capabilities. A number of studies suggest that a diet that is high in lycopene may be associated with a lower risk of prostate cancer and cardiovascular disease.
In the mid 1990s a study conducted at Harvard University with nearly 50,000 men found that eating 10 or more servings a week of tomato products – which are naturally 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 very well documented. In a recent study, men who with the highest concentration of lycopene found 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. Researchers also 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?
Lycopene must be obtained through diet as it is not produced naturally by the human body. Tomato products, such as spaghetti sauce, tomato juice, ketchup and pizza sauce are, by far, the major sources of lycopene in the typical western 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.