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Lycopene: Definitions and Sources


Lycopene may sound like a complicated term to grasp or understand, but it is in fact just a term that is used to name quite an important structure in the scientific world. It is a carotenoid that can be found in human serum, skin and also in the liver, the lungs, prostate, colon and the adrenal glands. It has been found, in various animal and lab studies and research, that it possesses antioxidant as well as anti-proliferative characteristics, but human activity remains undecided on and in fact quite controversial. Studies have, however, produced various results indicating that a high intake of foods that contain this structure or that contain high lycopene serum levels have actually helped prevent incidences of cancer, macular degeneration and even cardiovascular disease. These studies are based on the intake of natural sources, like tomatoes and not on the intake of chemically produced supplements. Foods like tomatoes are, however, carriers of various other beneficial nutrients, like vitamin C, potassium and folate, so the effects of actual lycopene are not determined individually.

Most people will get their lycopene intakes from sources like tomatoes, but there have been no severe cases of "lycopene deficiency" reported or determined. Tomato products, like tomato sauce, paste and cooked tomatoes in stews and on pizzas usually have higher levels of the structure than raw tomatoes. The cooking process breaks down what is known as the "cell walls" of tomatoes, so the lycopene becomes more readily available. A ripe tomato, for example, will contain about 4mg, while a cup of tomato soup will have closer to 25mg. If you consume tomato products with oil; your body will absorb the lycopene much more successfully (sprinkle olive oil on a salad, for example). Always opt for healthier oil options like olive or avocado oil that have their own health benefits.

It does come in a supplement form in tablets or even capsules and these have antioxidant qualities too. Other antioxidants are also often added to the supplements. Too high a dosage, however, can cause toxicity, so try not to consume large amounts (even though there are no maximum dosage recommendations).


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