What are carotenoids ? What is lycopene ?
What are their medicinal properties ? Which fruits and vegetables do you encounter ?
How these natural chemicals may help fight and prevent breast cancer, lung cancer, prostate cancer, colon cancer, cardiovascular disease and diabetes in obese people ? What have scientific studies proved on this subject ?
Carotenoids Definition and Medicinal Properties
Carotenoids are pigments synthesized by yellow, orange or red plants, belonging to the chemical class of terpenoids. Scientists have identified more than 700. The most common carotenoids in our diets are alpha-carotene, beta-carotene, beta-cryptoxanthin, lutein, zeaxanthin and the famous lycopene. They are found in fruits and vegetables.
The alpha-carotene, beta-carotene and beta-cryptoxanthin are provitamin A carotenoids, which means they can be converted by the body (in the intestine) in retinol or vitamin A. The lutein, zeaxanthin and lycopene have no vitaminic A activity.
Extensive research on the medicinal properties of carotenoids searches are under way in many countries. The benefits of carotenoids for health are related to their antioxidant properties. It has long been known that these natural nutrients benefit the immune system, eyes and blood vessels.
Lycopene Definition and Benefits
Lycopenes are red pigments, natural and fatty, which belong to the family of carotenoids found in a number of plant species.
Epidemiological studies have shown that lycopene are powerful antioxidants capable of providing protection against oxidative damage and reducing the development and progression of many tumors.
You should know that heat does not destroy lycopene in some fruits and vegetables. Instead, cooking releases more lycopene, for example, in the case of tomatoes.
Lycopene : Natural Remedy Against Cancers
1) Prostate Cancer
Moreover, several clinical studies have shown that a high intake of foods rich in lycopene helps prevent prostate cancer. Indeed, men who take four to five tomato-based food weekly are less likely to develop prostate cancer than those who consume less often or not at all.
A high intake of lycopene during a period of six months reduced the PSA. PSA is a prostate specific antigen indicating the prostate diseases such as prostatitis, prostatic adenoma or benign prostatic hypertrophy and prostate cancer.
2 ) Breast Cancer
Some studies have shown the benefits of a diet rich in lycopene in the prevention of breast cancer. Furthermore, it has been shown that the carotenoid lycopene is capable of inhibiting or preventing to some extent, the growth of cancer cells from both the uterine mucosa and the breast.
3) Lung Cancer
American researchers (P & S and Harlem Hospital) have attempted to establish a link between the presence of plasma lycopene and the development of lung cancer. What did they find interesting ?
Persons with a low plasma concentration of lycopene are three times more likely to develop lung cancer than people who have high blood levels of lycopene. « This is especially true among smokers, » said Dr. Jean G. Ford, principal investigator on this study.
4) Colon cancer
We know that hormone receptors IGF1 (abbreviation for ‘Insulin-like Growth Factor’) are involved in many types of cancers including colon cancer. These are molecules that tend to stimulate the growth of cancers.
But a clinical study conducted on a group of people with a family history of colon cancer indicated that administration of an additional 30 mg of lycopene per day for 8 weeks reduced the bioavailability of these molecules which helps prevent this type of cancer.
Lycopene Benefits and Heart Diseases
Heart diseases include high blood pressure, coronary heart disease, vascular disease, angina and heart attacks.
Lycopene are powerful antioxidants belonging to the carotenoid family that can significantly reduce the oxidation of lipids and low density lipoprotein (LDL) often referred to as ‘bad cholesterol’, thereby reducing the development of atherosclerosis and cardiovascular disease.
Furthermore, lycopene supplementation reduces systolic blood pressure. The daily intake of lycopene helps to lower blood levels of C-reactive protein (CRP) considered a predictor of health problems related to the cardiovascular system. CRP is a protein of inflammation and thus serves as a biological marker.
Lycopene Benefits – Diseases Related to Obesity and Diabetes
Several studies including one conducted by researchers at INRA in Marseille indicated that lycopene acts favorably on the metabolism of the body’s fatty tissues
Lycopene present in fatty tissues helps in reducing the production of cytokines and chemokines, pro inflammatory molecules responsible for the development of insulin resistance at the origin of type 2 diabetes..
Lycopene and other Health Benefits
Tomatoes are special mention among food items that lower blood pressure. Tomatoes are rich in calcium and potassium and contain vitamin A, C and E. Tomatoes also contain lycopene, a powerful antioxidant that is known to prevent cardiovascular disease. The antioxidants found in tomatoes can prevent LDL cholesterol or bad cholesterol from oxidizing and sticking to the walls of blood vessels (which would contribute to an increase in blood pressure).
One way to enjoy the herbal properties of tomatoes is to take fruit juice. Of course, it is best to prepare the tomato juice yourself. If you buy it ready-made, make sure the juice is 100% natural and does not contain added salt !
What Foods are Rich in Lycopene ?
The fruits that contain more lycopene are tomatoes, watermelon, guava, pink grapefruit and papaya.
It is also found in red pepper, apricot, red orange, broccoli and spinach.
It is advisable to consume 6.5 mg of lycopene per day. For example, bear in mind that half a cup of tomato sauce contains about 22 mg of lycopene, a tablespoon Ketchup contains 2.5 mg, a guava owns 14 mg, a slice of watermelon contains 13 mg and a grapefruit contains 3.4 mg.
The particularity of the Guava
You should know that the lycopene in Psidium (guava) is more easily assimilated by our body as the lycopene in tomatoes. On the other hand, guava contains 50% more lycopene than tomatoes.
The guava orange or red flesh contains more lycopene than the white flesh.
Author : Alexis ROGER
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