Lycopene is a bright red carotenoid pigment, a phytochemical found in tomatoes and red fruits. (Is found in particularly high amounts in tomatoes and tomato products). Its name is derived from the tomato’s species classification, “Solanum lycopersicum“. This pigment is an acrylic isomer of beta carotene and it is synthesized by plants and microorganisms. The substance called lycopene is one of the most potent carotenoid antioxidants. The important carotenoids in the human body include; beta-carotene, alpha-carotene, lutein, cryptoxanthin, zeaxanthin and lycopene. Lycopene is readily absorbed by the organism and is naturally present in human plasma and tissues in more concentrations than the other carotenoids.
Lycopene Facts and Lycopene Benefits for Men
Lycopene shows antioxidant and anticancer properties. Some research shows lycopene may be help to prevent heart disease, atherosclerosis, prostate and breast cancers. Also found in cell membranes and plays an effective role in maintaining the cell’s integrity when it is under assault by toxins. Lycopene is a constituent of human redox defence mechanism against free radicals. It is found in intensive concentrations in the testes and seminal plasma and decreased levels have been demonstrated in men suffering from infertility.
Lycopene acts as an antioxidant, protecting cells against damage from the free radicals formed when body cells burn oxygen for energy. Free radicals are molecules that have at least one unpaired electron. By donating an electron lycopene can stabilize the free molecule. The oxidative damage caused by free radicals has been linked to many degenerative diseases such as cardiovascular diseases, cancer and cataracts. This pigment is a effective antioxidant that can help protect against degenerative diseases. It does this by neutralizing free radicals. Lab experiments indicate that lycopene is a more strong antioxidant than other carotenoids, including beta-carotene. Lycopene antioxidant effect is twice as high as that of beta carotene and ten times higher than that of alpha tocopherol.
Observational studies in have shown that the risk for some types of cancer is lower in people who have higher levels of lycopene in their blood. Evidence is strongest for lycopene protective effect against cancer of the lung, prostate, and stomach. Serum and tissue lycopene levels have been inversely related to the risk of prostate and lung cancers. It may also help to protect against cancer of the breast, cervix, pancreas, esophagus, and colon and rectum. Lycopene has also been demonstrated to have other possible anti cancer activities particularly relating to modulation of intercellular communication and alterations in intracellular signalling pathways. Developing clinical research shows that taking 8 mg/day or 4 mg/day of a special lycopene supplement significantly improves oral leukoplakia. An Italian study showed that people who ate at least one tomato-based product per day had a 50 percent lower chance of contracting digestive tract cancer than those who did not eat tomatoes.
Lycopene and Prostate Cancer
A study in the Journal of the National Cancer Institute in 1995 followed more than 47,000 men for 8 years. Found a 21 % lower risk of prostate cancer in men who consumes the most lycopene. A study cited in the February 1999 issue of Journal of the National Cancer Institute found that a high intake of lycopene, was linked with a reduced risk for a number of cancers. A 2002 writing in the American Journal of Medicine describes epidemiologic studies that report diets high in lycopene protect against cancers. Scientists have found that patients with prostate cancer were found to have low levels of lycopene and high levels of oxidation of serum lipids and proteins. Preliminary research in men with precancerous changes in their prostate shows that taking 4 mg of lycopene twice daily might delay or prevent progression to prostate cancer. In a “Harvard University” study (1995) conducted with 47,894 men, researchers found that eating 10 or more servings a week of tomato products was linked with a reduced risk of prostate cancer by as much a 34%. In a 2002 study, patients with diagnosed prostate cancer showed a decrease in plasma prostate specific antigen after 3 weeks of lycopene supplementation in the amount of 15 mg twice/day.
Free oxygen radicals are one of the important causes of male infertility, and antioxidant lycopene is known to get rid of these free radicals. The antioxidant lycopene may exert useful effects on human sperm as well as eggs, according to preliminary research. A study conducted at the All “India Institute of Medical Sciences” found that lycopene, can boost sperm concentrations in infertile men. A 2000 study in India examined thirty men with idiopathic infertility. Were given 2000 micrograms of lycopene, twice a day for 3 months. Their semen was analyzed after the three-month period and twenty patients showed an improvement in sperm concentration, sixteen had improved motility and fourteen showed improvement in sperm morphology.
The optimal dose of lycopene is not known. The recommended daily intake of lycopene is 6 to 30 milligrams. The man in the Harvard study with the greatest protection against cancer consumed at least 6.5 mg per day.
Best Lycopene Sources
Lycopene is found in tomatoes, watermelons, pink grapefruits, pink guavas papaya, and rosehip. 240 mL (one cup) of tomato juice provides about 23 mg of lycopene. Is found in particularly high levels in tomatoes and tomato products. Processed tomato products have high amounts of lycopene than raw tomatoes. Eating tomato products with oil helps the lycopene to be more readily absorbed by the body.
Excess intake of lycopene can cause a deep orange discoloration of the skin, a harmless condition called lycopenodermia. Lycopenodermia is a temporary condition and fully resolves after discontinuing tomato products for a few weeks.