Our requested topic today is -lycopene.
What is lycopene?
Lycopene is a natural compound found in many foods. Itís a chemical called a carotenoid which are natural pigments that give color to plants, fruits, and vegetables.† Lycopene is a red plant pigment (a carotenoid) that's most famously found in tomatoes but also occurs in watermelon, pink grapefruit, and papaya. Itís known as one of the most powerful natural antioxidants, and because itís still effective when heated, itís easy to add to your diet through both fresh and processed foods. It is fundamentally recognized as a potent antioxidant and a non-pro-vitamin A carotenoid. Carotenoids are yellow, orange, and red pigments synthesized by plants. The most common carotenoids in North American diets are α-carotene, β-carotene, β-cryptoxanthin, lutein, zeaxanthin, and lycopene. Among all the carotenoids (over 600 of them), lycopene has the highest free-radical scavenging ability. Free radicals build up naturally as we age but also, their levels increase due to environmental and behavioral factors like pollution and smoking. Free radicals cause cell damage ó in high levels, this damage is linked to a wide range of health conditions, including cancer, diabetes, and heart disease. By stabilizing these free radicals, scientists believe that lycopene may reduce the risk of developing chronic illnesses.
Major Health Benefits?
1.††††††††††† Fertility- When men suffering from infertility took 2 milligrams of lycopene twice a day for three months, 66% of the men showed improved sperm concentration while 73% showed improved sperm motility. A recent study found that consuming 14 milligrams a day of lycopene can improve fertility in healthy young men by about 40 percent.
2.††††††††††† Neuroprotective- The lycopene consumption relieved cognitive defects, age-related memory loss, neuronal damage, and synaptic dysfunction of the brain. Lycopene is thought to have promise in combating some neurodegenerative diseases.
3.††††††††††† Reduced Cancer Risk- Inflammation is known as one of the most important key points in cancer. Lycopene, as one of the most potent anti-inflammatory nutraceuticals, is under research in many preclinical and clinical cancer studies. Studies showed a higher serum lycopene level and a lower cancer occurrence.† An increased consumption of lycopene has been reported to be associated with a decreased risk of a wide variety of cancers, such as breast, lung, ovary, prostate, stomach, bone and ovary. Experimental studies have shown that lycopene slows or stops the growth of cancer cells. Itís thought that this effect is due to lycopeneís uniquely strong antioxidant abilities. Because it's not changed into Vitamin A in our bodies like most carotenoids, scientists believe its antioxidant properties are enhanced, helping to reduce cell damage that can lead to cancer. Because of this antioxidant profile, lycopene may stop cancer growth and build up enzymes in the body that help break down cancer-causing agents.†† Lycopene is showing great promise in fighting prostate cancer and also shown promise against bladder, cervical, oral, esophageal, pancreatic, and rectal cancers, in addition to leukemia and cancers of the colon, lung, and breast.https://www.t-nation.com/supplements/news-lycopene-benefits-supplements-foods/† ††††††††††††https://www.webmd.com/diet/health-benefits-lycopene†† †
4.††††††††††† Antidiabetic- Levels of lycopene are inversely related with plasma glucose levels and fasting insulin levels. That means it makes you more insulin sensitive, thus decreasing Type II diabetes and inefficient carbohydrate metabolism. As shown in animal studies and epidemiological surveys, it can be used for both the prevention and treatment of diabetes. https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC7464847/#B80-antioxidants-09-00706†††††† In a diabetic rat model, lycopene decreased diabetes-associated pancreas injury and urine and blood glucose levels and it increased serum insulin levels. Very promising research!!
5.††††††††††† Stroke prevention- A study published in the journal Neurology found that lycopene may help prevent strokes, particularly strokes caused by blood clots. This study was done with 1,031 Finnish men aged 46−65 years.† https://n.neurology.org/content/79/15/1540 ††††Researchers think this is due to the fact that lycopene improves cholesterol levels in addition to reducing inflammation, two factors that can contribute to a stroke.† Along the same health line-
6.††††††††††† Heart Health- Research published in The American Journal of Clinical Nutrition found that in addition to its antioxidant properties, lycopene may have the ability to reduce LDL (bad) cholesterol while increasing HDL (good) cholesterol levels. https://academic.oup.com/ajcn/article/71/6/1691S/4729653†† †There may also be a connection to those who have higher amounts of lycopene in their tissues and a lower risk of heart attack, blocked or clogged arteries, lower blood pressure, and other cardiovascular diseases. Lycopene is a cardioprotective nutraceutical. Different research showed a protective effect against atherosclerosis and several CVDs.†† https://pubmed.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/29287334/†
††† https:/ www.ijrrjournal.com/IJRR_Vol.4_Issue.1_Jan2017/Abstract_IJRR0013.html. It can scavenge some of the deadly oxidants that are known to be associated with atherosclerosis. Lycopene reduces oxidation of cholesterols. So, the bottom line- This balance is important because high cholesterol develops fatty deposits in our blood vessels, which can clot and lead to a heart attack or stroke. Also, Lycopene can help to maintain good blood pressure, further reducing the risk of heart disease.
7.††††††††††† Skin health- Lycopene seems to protect the skin against UV-B induced sun damage. Lycopene can inhibit platelet-derived growth factor, which inhibits the growth, invasion, and metastasis of melanoma. In hairless mice, lycopene improved the visual appearance of skin, made the skin moister, and even increased skin thickness. (When animals and humans age, our skin gets thinner, allowing for more wrinkles.) Long-term lycopene consumption is linked with skin cancer prevention as several studies show that people who included tomato paste in their diet daily experienced up to 40% less ultraviolet (UV) skin damage from sunlight than those who did not. Another positive, lycopene was shown to boost levels of procollagen in the skin significantly, which scientists believe has the potential to reverse skin damage caused by aging. Note: lycopene does not (and should not) substitute as a replacement for SPF. And a promising positive†
8.††††††††††† Pain Relief -Lycopene has been shown to reduce pain to a degree similar to that of ibuprofen medication. Several studies have looked at its effects on nerve pain ó which is traditionally very difficult to treat. The results in animals are promising, showing significant levels of decreased pain and hypersensitivity from lycopene intake.
9.††††††††††† Immune booster- Lycopene can activate the adaptive immune response the T-cells and B-cells that produce antibodies that attack specific infections.
Lycopene at work-
Lycopene a powerful antioxidant, which explains a lot of its beneficial effects like reducing fasting blood glucose, improving sperm quality and quantity, reverting tumor initiation, on and on. Lycopene is also a potent anti-inflammatory agent, prevents plaque in arteries, exhibits strong immune protection against bacterial infection, displays anti-angiogenesis properties (prevents blood vessels from "feeding" tumors), and has significant abilities to modulate phase I and phase II enzymes (allowing it to protect cells and tissues in general). The most interesting to me is that lycopene aides something known as "gap junctional communications," which is another way of saying that it allows exchange of signaling molecules and nutrients between neighboring cells. This is important because one of the characteristics of cancer is the loss of gap junctional communications.† https://biologydictionary.net/gap-junction/†††† †††††https://www.sciencedirect.com/science/article/abs/pii/0076687994340900
Where can we get lycopene?
Here are some excellent food sources of lycopene:
1 cup of canned tomato sauce: 37 milligrams
1 wedge or 1 Ĺ cup of raw watermelon: 13 milligrams
1 tablespoon of canned tomato paste: 3 milligrams
1 tablespoon of ketchup: 2.5 milligrams
1 tablespoon of salsa: 1.7 milligrams
Some great ways to get the best absorption of these lycopene-rich foods are through recipes like:
Spaghetti sauces, chilis, and tomato soup
Broiled grapefruit slices with a bit of brown sugar
Cooked carrots or creamy carrot soup
Roasted red pepper hummus
important to make sure youíre eating enough fruits and vegetables with lycopene in them to get the full health benefits. Other foods to look for with the highest amounts of lycopene are guavas, grapefruit, papaya, red bell peppers, persimmon, asparagus (even though it doesnít have the trademark orange or red hue), red cabbage, and mangoes.
Supplement form- lycopene is available in supplement form. I would encourage you to focus on your fueling first then supplement as needed.
How much do I need?
There is currently no recommended daily intake for lycopene. However, from the current studies, intakes between 8Ė21 mg per day appear to be most beneficial.† The average person consumes approximately 2 milligrams (mg) per day in their diet. This isnít nearly enough to get the antioxidant benefits.
Lycopene is considered safe and there are no established upper limits recommended for its consumption. In a few rare cases, eating very high amounts of lycopene-rich foods led to a skin discoloration known as lycopenodermia. High levels are generally difficult to achieve through diet alone.† Lycopene may also increase the risk of bleeding when taking certain medications such as aspirin, anticoagulants (blood thinners), antiplatelet drugs, nonsteroidal anti-inflammatory drugs such as ibuprofen or naproxen. The same goes for mixing lycopene and herbs that may increase bleeding, like ginkgo biloba. Those taking medication for low blood pressure should not take lycopene, as it could cause lower blood pressure even more.
high levels of lycopene may not be suitable for people with stomach ulcers. The consumption of lycopene in foods taken through diet during pregnancy and lactation is generally safe. However, supplemented lycopene taken in addition during pregnancy are probably not safe. In pregnancy or breastfeeding as some research found taking a daily supplement increased the risk of premature births and low birth weights. As I always recommend, talk to your pharmacist and health care provider if you have any health condition to assure if lycopene is safe for you and wonít interact with medications you take.