June 18, 2024
Tomato Lycopene

The Powerful Health Benefits of Tomato Lycopene

Lycopene is a bright red carotenoid pigment found in tomatoes and other red fruits and vegetables. As an antioxidant, lycopene plays an important role in helping to reduce cell damage caused by harmful free radicals in the body. Of all carotenoids, lycopene has been found to be one of the most potent in terms of antioxidant activity.

How Lycopene is Formed in Tomatoes

Tomatoes derive their red color from lycopene. Lycopene content increases as tomatoes ripen and turn more red. Unripe green tomatoes contain very little lycopene. As tomatoes are exposed to sunlight during ripening, chlorophyll breaks down and Tomato Lycopene production increases, producing the bright red color. Processed tomato products like tomato sauce and paste are particularly rich in lycopene since the cooking process helps release more lycopene from the food matrix.

Cardiovascular Health Benefits

Many studies have linked higher lycopene intake and blood lycopene levels to a reduced risk of heart disease. Lycopene acts as an antioxidant to protect LDL (bad) cholesterol from oxidation, which is one of the initial steps in the development of atherosclerosis and hardening of the arteries. In multiple long-term studies, higher lycopene intake was found to reduce the risk of heart attack in men by up to 26%. Lycopene’s antioxidant properties also help reduce inflammation throughout the body which contributes to heart disease.

Cancer Prevention Properties

Tomato Lycopene has generated a lot of research interest due to its potential cancer-fighting properties. In vitro and animal studies have shown lycopene to suppress the development of several cancer types including prostate, lung, stomach, endometrial, breast and skin cancers. Multiple large epidemiological studies link higher dietary lycopene intake to a significantly reduced risk of cancers. Lycopene acts as an antioxidant, helps stimulate the body’s detoxification enzymes and induces cell cycle arrest and apoptosis in cancer cells. Emerging evidence suggests lycopene may help prevent cancer initiation and help stop cancer progression.

Prostate Cancer Risk Reduction

Prostate cancer is an area that has been extensively researched in relation to lycopene intake. Several large prospective studies found that men with the highest intakes of lycopene-rich foods had up to 35% lower risk of developing prostate cancer compared to men with the lowest intakes. In a human cell line study, lycopene was able to slow the growth and spread of prostate cancer cells. The protective effect of lycopene against prostate cancer is likely due to its selective accumulation in the prostate gland. Lycopene intake is considered one approach men can take to help maintain prostate health.

Eye Health Benefits

Lycopene helps protect the eyes from damaging free radicals and sunlight exposure that can lead to cataracts and age-related macular degeneration (AMD) – two leading causes of blindness. High lycopene levels in the blood and tissues surrounding the eyes help filter out blue wavelengths of visible light that can damage the retina. Large observational studies found high lycopene intakes from tomato products were associated with significantly reduced risk of both cataracts (up to 35% lower risk) and AMD. Lycopene may be especially protective against advanced forms of AMD. Adding lycopene-rich foods like tomatoes to your diet supports eye health as you age.

Brain Health and Cognitive Function

Oxidative stress and inflammation have been linked to an increased risk of brain aging and neurodegenerative conditions like Alzheimer’s disease. Lycopene’s strong antioxidant activity makes it an important player in brain health. Research suggests lycopene crosses the blood-brain barrier and accumulates in regions of the brain involved with memory. A few human trials have found lycopene supplementation for 12-26 weeks improved measures of cognitive function in older adults. Lycopene’s antioxidant properties seem to help protect brain cells and neuronal pathways from free radical damage over time. More research is still needed but dietary lycopene shows promise as a natural way to support brain health and mental function.

Best Sources of Dietary Lycopene

By far the best dietary source of lycopene is tomatoes and tomato-based products. Just one medium raw tomato contains about 2.5 mg of lycopene while a 6-ounce serving of tomato juice or 1⁄2 cup of tomato sauce can provide over 10 mg. Watermelon also provides a significant amount of lycopene though in lesser quantities than tomatoes. Other lycopene-containing fruits and vegetables in much smaller amounts include guava, pink grapefruit, papaya and red carrots. For maximum absorption, pair lycopene-rich foods with a source of fat or oil at the same meal since lycopene is a fat-soluble pigment. Consistently including tomatoes and tomato products in your diet is an easy way to absorb this important antioxidant.

As a potent phytonutrient found predominantly in tomatoes, tomato lycopene has emerged as having numerous significant health benefits beyond basic nutrition. Research continues to reveal lycopene’s protective effects against heart disease, age-related macular degeneration, cataracts, prostate cancer and other chronic conditions. Daily lycopene intake through commonly eaten foods like tomatoes, tomato sauce and tomato juice represents an easy lifestyle strategy with meaningful long-term rewards for overall health and disease prevention. From protecting vision and brain health to lowering cancer and cardiovascular risk, lycopene’s antioxidant properties provide excellent reasons to “eat your tomatoes.”

1. Source: Coherent Market Insights, Public Source, Desk Research
2. We have leveraged AI tools to mine information and compile it