What is Lycopene?Lycopene belongs to the family of carotenoids. It has a structure that consists of a long chain of conjugated double bonds, with two open end rings. The structure lycopene is the longest of all carotenoids.
DistributionLycopene is the red pigement of ripe tomatoes. Tomatoes contribute over 85% of the lycopene intake by women (Chug-Ahuja, 1993). Lycopene is also found in guava, pink grapefruit, red oranges and watermelon
Health Benefits of LycopeneLycopene is a very efficient antioxidant, which can neutralize oxygen derived free radicals. The oxidative damage caused by these free radicals has been linked to many degenerative diseases such as cardiovascular diseases, premature aging, cancer and cataracts. In many countries it is legally allowed to advertise foods containing tomato lycopene as "containing antioxidants for the maintenance and support of healthy cells". Lycopene is generally known for its protective action against prostate cancer.
Anti-cancerIn vitro-studies have shown the anti-cancer properties of lycopene against many cancer cells, including cancer cells of prostate, stomach, lung, colon and skin.
There are numerous studies about the effect of lycopene on cancer and prostate cancer in particular. Using Pubmed as a retrieval base, more than 80 scientific studies have the names lycopene and prostate in their title. Most of the in-vitro experiments using cultured prostate cancer cells demonstrate a protective effect. However, most literature review studies or clinical studies are less conclusive and often contradictory. Lycopene also shows anti-mutagenic action against chemically induced DNA damage.
Antibacterial and antifungal
Lycopene possesses antibacterial and antifungal properties. Lycopene can help to reduce inflammation of the gums and can help to fight infections of Candida albicans.
Diabetes patients may suffer from complications as vascular disease, diabetic neuropathies or infections. Lycopene helps to protect diabetes patients against cardiovascular disease and may improve the immune response.
However, the consumption of lycopene seems not to reduce the risk of diabetes mellitus type 2.
Lycopene has a structure similar to that of the well-known antioxidant beta-carotene, but its antioxidant activity is much stronger. Treatment of cells will lycopene protects cells against DNA damage and lipid peroxidation.
Lycopene inhibits platelet aggregation and reduces the production of foam cells which play an important role in the development of arteriosclerosis. Lycopene helps to prevent arteriosclerosis by reducing inflammatory agents in rats increased risk of venous thrombosis.
In laboratory conditions, lycopene shows antitoxic properties against many toxins such as aflatoxin, cyclosporine and cadmium.