Lycopene is a powerful antioxidant that is found in the red pigment of tomatoes and other red fruits and vegetables. It is also found in plants and algae. It is chemically similar to carotene but does not contain any vitamin A like the orange coloring in carrots do. Although lycopene is not an essential nutrient for humans it is still provides many health benefits. When lycopene is ingested it is absorbed into the stomach and taken up by the blood stream to where it accumulates in the adrenal glands, liver and testes. Lycopene benefits abound but the most benefit is the fact that it is able to destroy free radicals in the body at the cellular level. Free radicals are thought to be a major cause for cancer and other illnesses. A diet rich in lycopene can also help reduce the incidence ofcardiovascular disease.
Lycopene benefits males who are having problems withinfertility. Eating foods rich in this nutrient can help improve low sperm count by up to 63%. Current research on this nutrient shows great promise for improving the chances of conception for men with low sperm count. Men who are having problems with their prostrate gland can also benefit from eating foods high in lycopene. Lycopene benefits for prostrate cancer have been scientifically documented. Men who eat a lot of foods containing this antioxidant have less of a chance of developing prostrate cancer than those who don't. Men who already have prostrate cancer can also benefit from lycopene. It has actually been found to lower the PSA level in males who have prostrate cancer. PSA measures that increase mean that the cancer cells are growing and spreading.
Lycopene benefits other forms of cancer as well such as those in the lungs, stomach, colon, rectum, pancreas, breast cervix and mouth. It is also beneficial for people who have diabetes, osteoporosis, heart disease andskin diseases. It also benefits macular degeneration and other age related diseases. The many lycopene benefits also include protection against aging skin. It protects from UV ray skin damage which is associated with skin cancer. According to researchers there is evidence that this powerful antioxidant can provide internal protection from the sun as well. Lycopene benefits may also extend to maintaining healthy arteries and prevent high cholesterol because of its antioxidant effect. However, more research needs to be done in this area.
Tomatoes and tomato sauce are a good source for lycopene. Cooked tomato products like ketchup, spaghetti sauce, pizza sauce, marinara sauce and tomato juice are good food sources for lycopene. In fact, lycopene made more readily available when tomatoes are cooked. Heating tomatoes actually increases the amount of lycopene that is released by up to 2.5 times. Adding a little oil to cooked tomatoes helps the body to absorb more lycopene. Scientists now believe that if more people ate tomatoes the incidence of various kinds of cancer would decrease. About 40% of Americans do not eat tomatoes or tomato products as much as they should. People who do not eat tomatoes or other red fruits and vegetable very often can take lycopene supplements and still reap some of the benefits. The recommended daily amount of lcyopene has not been determined yet.
Current research suggests eating at least 10 servings of cooked tomato products a week can give the lycopene benefits needed to help prevent cancer. If you are pregnant or nursing you should consult with your physician before taking lycopene supplements. You can buy lycopene supplements online or in local health food and vitamin stores in your area. You can also go online and read more about the research that is being done on lycopene benefits.