At a recent conference, sponsored by the Center for Food and Nutrition Policy (CFNP) at Virginia Technical Institute, in Washington, D.C., researchers reported that they are finding more health benefits of lycopene, a pigment that gives many fruits and vegetables their red color.
One researcher at the conference, Dr. Leticia Rao from the University of Toronto, explained that lycopene’s function as an antioxidant prevents free radicals from disrupting the balance of new bone formation with the bone loss that naturally occurs with age. When that balance is thrown off, bone loss exceeds bone formation, causing the brittle bone disease osteoporosis.
Another researcher, Dr. Yoav Sharoni of Ben-Gurion University, reported that oral lycopene had a protective effect against UV skin damage, which suggested a potential inverse connection between lycopene and skin cancer. He explained that while sunscreens provide external protection from damaging UV rays, antioxidants like lycopene in the diet might provide internal protection from sunburn.
Previous research has found that the benefits of lycopene appear to affect parts of the body where lycopene concentration is highest, such as in the prostate gland. New research suggests a potential benefit for bone and skin health, and male infertility.
Lycopene is an antioxidant which appears to prevent the formation of harmful by-products of metabolism called free radicals. Free radicals are thought to be responsible for damaging the body’s cells, as well as their genetic makeup, leading to certain chronic diseases.
Researchers have currently not found any side effects from eating foods that have lycopene or from taking a lycopene supplement. The bottom line is that it is a beneficial substance for your body. Once you ingest it, your body gets to work using it as an antioxidant and for whatever else your body needs it for. To be safe, just make sure you are following standard dosage requirements.
The lycopene in tomatoes may reduce sun damage by 35%. One cup of tomatoes daily is what you need to increase your protection from sun damage. Studies have shown that this phytonutrient neutralizes harmful free radicals created by the sun’s UVA and UVB rays. To get more benefits from tomatoes, cook them first because the heat liberates three times more lycopene from the plant’s tissue. Since lycopene is a lipid, for better absorption, it should be consumed with oil.