Benefits of Lycopene Containing Tomato Diet Have no Evidence
For years the scientific community has viewed individual vitamins and nutrients as the best that food has to offer. Nutrition studies have isolated beta carotene, calcium, vitamin E and lycopene, among other nutrients, in order to study their health benefits in the body. Lycopene’s popularity has led a number of health food companies to incorporate the nutrient into their vitamin supplements, driving up demand for the chemical.
Tomatoes get their red color from a plant nutrient called lycopene is an antioxidant in particular has received a lot of attention from researchers in recent years. Lycopene is a pigment that gives vegetables and a fruit, such as tomatoes, pink grapefruit and watermelon, their red color.It is one of hundreds of carotenoids that color fruits and vegetables red, orange or yellow. Of these pigments, the most familiar is the beta-carotene, which is found in carrots. Carotenoids, along with phenolic acids and flavonoids, are all phytochemicals, the nutritionally beneficial active compounds found in every fruit and vegetable.
Several studies suggest that consumption of foods rich in lycopene is associated with a lower risk of prostate cancer and cardiovascular disease. Red carrots contain lycopene, also found in tomatoes and thought to guard against heart disease and some cancer sand macular degeneration. Purple carrots' anthocyanins are regarded as powerful antioxidants that help protect our cells from damage. The lower prostate oxidative DNA damage in men consuming tomato sauce suggests a role for tomato sauce and possibly for lycopene in the prevention and treatment of prostate cancer
Diet also plays a powerful role in aging. Many doctors believe a rainbow diet will add years to your life. Red pigment in lycopene, found in tomatoes and watermelon, is a powerful antioxidant. Green foods, like spinach, contain folates, which build healthy cells. Brown foods, such as whole grains, have fiber and carry carcinogens out of your digestive system. Don’t forget some white foods -- garlic and onions support the immune system.
According to the research of the cancer epidemiology and prevention program at The Robert H. Lurie Comprehensive Cancer Center of Northwestern University; lycopene has been found to have anti-tumor activity in a number of laboratory studies. Also, it has been used in a number of cancer studies in humans (e.g., lung, stomach and prostate cancers) that demonstrated a lower cancer rate in people with a high dietary intake of lycopene.
Researchers found that men whose fat samples revealed high consumption of lycopene had about half the risk of heart attack as men whose samples showed low lycopene consumption. This effect exceeded any protective effect of either alpha- or beta-carotene -- dietary carotenoid compounds similar to lycopene. Other red fruits and vegetables such as strawberries and red bell peppers also contain this anti-cancer chemical. It may also play an important role in eye health, optic neuropathy as a person ages.
Japanese researchers reported in issue of the American Journal of Physiology Lung Cellular and Molecular Physiology that "Feeding tomato juice to mice kept them from developing emphysema after cigarette smoke exposure that was long enough to induce emphysema".
Subsequent research has found that lycopene also reduces the amount of oxidized low-density lipoprotein — the so-called bad cholesterol — and therefore may reduce the risk of heart disease. As an antioxidant, lycopene is able to capture twice as many oxygen ions in the body as is beta-carotene.
Study at the the Ohio State University showed that eating whole foods is better than consuming their components. "It's better to eat tomatoes than to take a lycopene supplement. And cooked tomatoes may be better than raw tomatoes. Chopping and heating make the cancer-fighting constituents of tomatoes and broccoli more bioavailable.
There is a magical component in tomatoes that research is beginning to show could protect our skin from UV damage from sunburn. It’s called lycopene and it is a very effective antioxidant. Tomatoes (raw, cooked, or in tomato products such as sauces or ketchup), pink grapefruit, and watermelon are rich in lycopenes. These vitamin-like substances are antioxidants that help prevent damage to DNA.
Some of sweet potatoes' anti-diabetic properties, acai berry fruit which is also high in antioxidants, vitamin C, plus lycopene and potassium, which regulates the balance of water and nutrients in cells and protects your skin against damaging free radicals.
Researchers from Ohio State University recently reported that pairing avocados with salsa or salad allows for better absorption of antioxidants in those foods. The lycopene in tomatoes or the beta-carotene in carrots may be better absorbed if there's a slice or two of avocado in the bowl. Scientists suspect that the fat content of avocados helps the body absorb these antioxidants.
Latest scientific research found no evidence for lycopene benefits:
The tomato lycopene link is made even more interesting because the U.S. Food and Drug Administration gave permission for some tomato products to carry highly-qualified labeling claims linking men's eating tomato products with a reduced incidence of prostate cancer. In reaching its decision, the FDA noted that it's unclear whether lycopene alone is responsible for the tomato products' effect.
According researchers at the Fred Hutchinson Cancer Research Center; found no association between lycopene and decreased prostate-cancer risk," Kristal says. "We also looked at foods that were good sources of lycopene, such as spaghetti sauce and pizza. These were not related to cancer risk at all." These results support four earlier studies that found no association between either tomato consumption or lycopene intake and risk of prostate cancer.
- The Journal of the National Cancer Institute (JNCI) published a review of research this summer recently revealing that lycopene—the chemical in tomatoes thought to prevent cancer—actually doesn't work as previously thought. The new report didn't find convincing evidence that eating more garlic, fiber, veggies, fruits, or foods containing folate, lycopene, or selenium could reduce the chances of developing any kind of cancer. The best case could be made for fruit and its impact on the risk of mouth, esophagus, lung, and stomach cancer; researchers found a "probable" decreased risk.
- "Our findings strongly suggest that risks of poor dietary habits cannot be reversed simply by taking a pill," says study co-author Steven K. Clinton, associate professor of hematology and oncology and of human nutrition. "We shouldn't expect easy solutions to complex problems. We must focus more on choosing a variety of healthy foods, exercising and watching our weight."
- According to a new (September 14, 2007) study of the Cancer Research UK Epidemiology Unit at the University of Oxford stated that neither carotenoids (such as lycopene), retinol, nor tocopherols (forms of vitamin E) appear to reduce the odds of prostate malignancy -- findings that are in line with two other recent publications.
- In a recent (November 5, 2007) commentary for the journal Nutrition Reviews, University of Minnesota professor of epidemiology David R. Jacobs argues that nutrition researchers should focus on whole foods rather than only on single nutrients but rather combinations of compounds that work better together than apart. They given example that in 1996, researchers gave beta carotene and vitamin A to smokers and workers exposed to asbestos. But the trial had to be stopped because the people taking the combined therapy showed markedly higher risks for lung cancer and heart attacks.
- Recently (November, 2007) teams at the University of Illinois in Urbana-Champaign and Ohio State University in Columbus did carefully controlled studies on rats to see if lycopene supplements and concluded that if we want the health benefits of tomatoes, we should eat tomatoes or tomato products and not rely on lycopene supplements alone.
- Another study supported a trial study by Brigham and Women's Hospital, Harvard Medical School and Imperial Cancer Research Fund Clinical Trial Service Unit, University of Oxford, Oxford, England and concluded that "n this trial among healthy men, 12 years of supplementation with beta carotene produced neither benefit nor harm in terms of the incidence of malignant neoplasm’s, cardiovascular disease, or death from all causes".
- Researchers based at the National Cancer Institute and Fred Hutchinson Cancer Research Center report (May, 2007) that lycopene does not effectively prevent prostate cancer. In fact, the researchers noted an association between beta-carotene, an antioxidant related to lycopene, and an increased risk for aggressive prostate cancer and given cautious about taking beta carotene supplements, particularly at high doses, and consult a physician.
- FDA review has found only limited evidence for an association between eating tomatoes and a decreased risk of certain cancers. Their review found no evidence that tomatoes reduced the risk of lung, colorectal, breast, cervical, or endometrial cancer. However, there was very limited evidence for associations between tomato consumption and reduced risk of prostate, ovarian, gastric, and pancreatic cancers. Based on this assessment, the FDA decided to allow qualified health claims for a very limited association between tomatoes and these four cancers. Their analysis found no credible evidence that lycopene, either in food or in a dietary supplement, was associated with reduced risk of any of the cancers evaluated.
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