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Lycopene is an antioxidant that, e.g. reduces the risk of heart attack and cancer development, including cancer of the prostate and cervix. Tomatoes are the main source of lycopene, but this he alth-promoting substance is mostly found in its products, incl. in ketchup. Check how lycopene works and in which other products it can be found.

What is lycopene?

Lycopeneis a red dye from the family of carotenoids - natural antioxidants. Its task is to give fruits and vegetables a red color and neutralize free radicals, the excess of which in the body leads to the so-called oxidative stress, and further to the development of many diseases, including cancerous ones. It is the strong antioxidant properties that makethe he alth-promoting properties of lycopene . However, it not only neutralizes free radicals, but also has the ability to regenerate other antioxidants, such as lutein.

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In what products can lycopene be found?

The main source of lycopene are tomatoes - those ripened in the sun, not greenhouse or under foil. Fresh tomatoes contain an average of 0.7 - 20 mg of lycopene per 100 g. However, this he alth-promoting substance is mostly found in its products (tomato concentrates, ketchups, juices, sauces and tomato passata), because it is released during grinding, cooking or frying. For comparison - tomato paste may contain approx. 5.4-150 mg lycopene / 100 g.

In addition, lycopene can be found in other red vegetables and fruits, including in peppers, rosehips, watermelons, red grapefruits and red guava. However, the amount of lycopene in these products is small compared to that in tomatoes and its preserves. Traces are also found in apricots and papaya.

Lycopene reduces the risk of cancer development

Lycopene removes free radicals from the body that are responsible, among others, for the development of neoplastic diseases and thus reduces the risk of developing cancer. A high consumption of lycopene may reduce the risk of developing diseases such as for prostate cancer. This is confirmed by research conducted on a group of 48 thousand. men whose eating habits were followed for 4 years. Men who ate 10 or more tomato dishes a week had a 34 lower risk of developing cancerpercent, and in those who eat 4-7 dishes only by 20 percent. smaller. In addition, a lycopene-rich diet may also aid in the treatment of prostate cancer. This is the result of studies conducted among men who had to have their prostate gland removed. They were given 15 mg of lycopene per day for 3 weeks. It turned out that 80 percent. of respondents, the size of the prostate decreased.

Lycopene also reduces the likelihood of developing cervical cancer. Studies carried out on women who are predisposed to developing this cancer show that high levels of lycopene in the blood reduce the risk of developing this disease five times.

Lycopene protects against the development of heart disease

Lycopene improves the functioning of the circulatory system in patients who are struggling with its dysfunction, thus reducing the risk of cardiovascular diseases, including stroke and heart attack. This is what scientists from the University of Cambridge say, the results of which were published in the journal "PLOS One". Lycopene regulates the functions of the endothelium and causes the expansion of blood vessels (veins, arteries and capillaries) in patients with cardiovascular diseases.

In addition, lycopene inhibits the synthesis of cholesterol and helps to remove its "bad" fraction - LDL - from the blood. This is confirmed by the research of British scientists. The people studied by them took 27 mg of lycopene daily in the form of tomato juice (400 ml) for 3 weeks, as a result, their total cholesterol (TC) decreased by 6% and the LDL fraction by 13%.

Lycopene for strong bones

A diet rich in lycopene (as well as other carotenoids) can protect against excessive bone loss. This is the result of a study published in the American Journal of Clinical Nutrition. All because lycopene improves bone mineral density. Thus, it reduces the risk of osteoporosis.

Lycopene protects against the sun

Due to the fact that lycopene fights free radicals, it delays the skin aging process. Moreover, even a small amount of it increases the skin's resistance to solar radiation, which results in the fact that the skin turns less red under the influence of the sun. And since lycopene protects against UVA and UVB rays, it also reduces the risk of developing skin cancer - melanoma.

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What increases the absorption of lycopene?

Lycopene is much easier to absorb in a processed form, e.g. in the form of ketchup, tomato concentrate (of course of the highest quality), than in the natural form, i.e. in the form of fruit and vegetables. It is worth knowing that ketchups with a higher percentage contenttomato concentrates have a higher lycopene content, and thus a higher antiradical activity than those with little lycopene. Interestingly, the amount of tomatoes used to produce the ketchup is not a determinant of lycopene content. This is the result of research by scientists from the Department of Biochemistry and Food Chemistry of the University of Life Sciences in Lublin.

The absorption of lycopene increases the fat. Therefore, it is recommended to add olive oil or other he althy fat to tomatoes, as well as dishes based on them. Interestingly, lycopene is also better absorbed when consumed when heated, so it is better to reach for tomato-based sauces and soups first.

Heavy smokers have blood lycopene levels around 20 percent. lower than for non-smokers. This is the result of the reactive forms of nitrogen found in cigarette smoke. These harmful compounds enter the blood from the lungs, and then degrade not only lycopene molecules but also other carotenoids.

Lycopene is also a natural dye that hides under the symbolE160d . It can be found in the composition of, among others candied fruit and vegetables, ice cream, sauces, spices, pickles and fruit wines.

CHECK>>List "E" - types of food additives

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