What is Lycopene?
Lycopene; Tomatoes, watermelons, and grapefruits. Besides being a natural coloring agent, there are many benefits of lycopene for health. So much so that foods containing lycopene are popular. Even lycopene pills are available.
Lycopene is an antioxidant ten times stronger than vitamin E. To understand what this means and the benefits of lycopene’s health we need to first talk about antioxidants and free radicals. Free radicals cause cancer and aging by damaging the cells and DNA. Antioxidants are useful compounds that protect the cells by neutralizing free radicals. Lycopene, a potent antioxidant, is also likely to have anti-aging and anti-cancer effects.
Lycopene, on the other hand, strengthens the gap junctions between the cells in our bodies. These links facilitate the detection of cancer cells by other cells. That’s why lycopene is thought to reduce the likelihood of cancer.
Claims and researches on the cancer-inhibiting effect of lycopene are usually focused on prostate cancer. Experiments in the laboratory have shown that lycopene can slow the proliferation of prostate cancer cells.1 Lycopene has been shown to reduce cancer incidence in animal experiments. In a series of studies on the effect of lycopene on the risk of prostate cancer in humans, a small or even reduced rate of cancer incidence was observed in people receiving lycopene-containing foods. In this case, lycopene may have a preventative effect, but there is no definitive data on cancer treatment. Because, the results of the studies done by giving lycopene support to cancer patients have not got any definite result.
Findings are that lycopene has some other benefits. In an experiment in Germany, 40% reduction in color change after exposure to sunlight was observed in people fed lycopene for 10 weeks.2 It seems that lycopene also increases the resistance of your skin to ultraviolet rays. This can contribute to delaying the aging of the skin in the long run. However, it is important to remember that lycopene preservative sunscreens will not take hold. If you are exposed directly to the sun on a hot summer day without a cream, eating a few tomatoes or some watermelon will definitely not hurt your skin.
Lycopene is also effective in terms of bone health research shows. In a study in Canada, 60 women did not consume lycopene containing foods for a month. At the end of this study there was an increase in the symptoms of bone erection. In the second part of the research, some of the women started taking lycopene with tomato juice and pills. As a result, there was a decrease in osteoporosis findings in the group receiving lycopene.3
According to an experiment at Cambridge University in 2014, lycopene also helps strengthen blood vessels in heart patients.4 This lycopene is a finding that supports the theory that the heart is good and reduces the risk of a heart attack, but more research is needed to say something definite. On the other hand, a previous study in Finland showed that lycopene reduced blood clot-related stroke risk by 59 percent.5
Which foods are found in lycopene?
The first food that comes to mind is lycopene. Even so, lycopene is derived from the lycopene word “lycopersicon”. There is about 3 mg of lycopene in 100 g mature, raw tomato. Let’s make an interesting point about the lycopene in the house. In general, vegetables and fruits fall when cooked, but the situation is different for tomatoes. The lycopene molecules in the human body have a ring-like sequence. The lycopene molecules in the house are line-shaped. When the tomato is cooked or subjected to any heating process, the lycopene ring is shaped and absorbed easily in the body. In other words, heat-treated products such as tomato juice, ketchup or tomato paste are more beneficial for obtaining lycopene. Eating fat with tomatoes increases the absorption of lycopene. So, it is a great choice as a source of lycopene with a spicy dish of tomatoes with some oil.
Watermelon, which sweetens our mouth when we need liquid in summer days, is also rich in lycopene. There is 4-5 mg of lycopene in 100 g of watermelon. Moreover, research shows that lycopene in watermelon is better digested than raw tomatoes. The more watermelon is red, the higher the lycopene ratio.
Red grapefruit also contains 1 mg of lycopene per 100 g. The red color of blood orange usually gives another pigment called antisionion. Many other vegetables and fruits also contain lycopene in the amount of trace, but their ratio is not comparable to watermelon and tomato.
2-) Stahl W, Heinrich U, Aust O, Tronnier H, Sies H. (2006) Lycopene-rich products and dietary photoprotection. Photochem Photobiol Sci. 5:238-42.