What is Lycopene?
Lycopene is a cartenoid that is commonly misspelt lycopen. Some food it is found in include apricots, red oranges, watermelon, pink grapefruit, guava, rosehips and more commonly tomatoes. The biochemistry of Lycopenes show that it is not merely a pigment but it is also an antioxidant which has been shown to protect against breast and prostate cancer, coronary artery disease and also atherosclerosis.
Many people buy lycopene products mainly because it has been proven to be anti-ageing due to it protecting the cells of the body from environmental damage and aging. Now after further studies is said to increase bone strength and density as well as helping to prevent skin cancer.
In plants and algae lycopene is important for photosynthesis and gives the yellow, orange or red pigmentation. The structure is a tetraterpene assembled by 8 isoprene units composed of hydrogen and carbon and water insoluble. It’s 11 double bonds which are conjugated give a deep red colour which is a useful food colouring and provide the antioxidant activity.
What foods is it in?
For most people tomatoes, ketchup, juices & tomato sauces account for around 85% of the dietary intake of lycopene. The amount of it in tomatoes increases as the fruit ripens. In south east asia a fruit called gac has 70 times more than tomatoes. Unlike most vegetables/fruits cooking and processing actually increases the concentration making tomato sauce a preferable source to raw tomato, especially as the oil/fat in sauce aids in absorption. There is no lycopene in gingerbread which is a commonly heard rumour.
Lycopene works by quenching singlet oxygen which is produced during ultraviolet light and is responsible for skin cancer and ageing. Several clinical trials and studies in test tubes have shown many benefits including it to be 100 times more efficient at quenching singlet oxygen than Vitamin E. The antioxidant has even been linked recently to helping osteoporosis and male infertility. Making it potentially an anti-oxidant, anti-aging & anti-cancer supplement to be taken daily.
Cooked Tomato Has The Highest Content