Healthy eating is incomplete without intaking important nutrients in the body. And lycopene is one of them. The term lycopene has been doing the rounds on its efficacy in preventing diseases. What is this lycopene? Where is it found? How does it work? Is it beneficial? – these questions are going to be answered in this article.
What Is Lycopene And Where Is It Found?
Lycopene is a red carotenoid hydrocarbon responsible for the red color in fruits and vegetables, commonly found in tomatoes. Though colored fruits and vegetables are said to be rich in lycopene, not all of them are. Certain foods like tomatoes and processed products, pink guavas, grapefruits, watermelons, and apricots contain more lycopene per gram of weight than other foods. However, it is not present in cherries and strawberries.
How Is It Helpful?
Lycopene possesses antioxidant properties attributed to the capacity of trapping singlet oxygen species, which can destroy the proteins, lipids, and DNA of our cells. Hence, lycopene helps in reducing the oxidative stress that comes in hand with our present-day lifestyle.
More Benefits Of Lycopene
Apart from their antioxidant capacity, they play a tremendous role in preventing chronic diseases through various mechanisms. They help in decreasing the expression of inflammatory compounds such as Interleukin-6 and Insulin-like growth factor-1. Inflammation is the leading cause of cardiovascular diseases.
Lycopene plays a role in modulating the gap junctions (the junctions present between cells for communication between them). Gap junctions have a role to play in cancer progression. Tumors have shown to have a decrease in gap junctions, which cause dysregulation in communication and hence uncontrolled proliferation.
Another effect of lycopene is in its enhancement of phase-II detoxification enzymes. These enzymes help polarize the toxic compounds and excrete them. A build-up of toxic compounds can cause tumor formation.
Therefore, through multiple strategies, lycopene asserts its effect in preventing chronic diseases such as cancer, osteoarthritis, and cardiovascular diseases. Some studies also show the results of lycopene on male infertility and postmenopausal women.
How Can You Increase Its Content In The Foods?
Chemically, lycopene is a fat-soluble compound capable of transforming itself into its isomers when exposed to light, heat, and other chemical reactions. Studies showed that when tomato juice was subjected to heat and processed in different oils, lycopene content increased in the final product. Hence, the consumption of raw tomato for its lycopene content is less beneficial than cooking it along with specific oils for your favorite subjis and curries.
Consuming large amounts of tomatoes and its products for its lycopene isn’t helpful; the absorption capacity of ingested lycopene is only 10-30%. This absorption is further influenced by our hormone status, age, gender, body composition, and habits like drinking alcohol and smoking. The phases of the menstrual cycle also affect lycopene in women.
How Much Should You Take In A Day?
Humans cannot synthesize lycopene; the dietary intake influences its content in the body. Despite this, there is no specific recommendation for the amount of lycopene to be consumed every day. Several studies show a 7-8 mg of lycopene consumption per day yields beneficial results, but other studies have investigated a 30-35 mg/day to show reduced oxidative biomarkers. Further studies are necessary to state a recommended daily intake conclusively.
Hence, lycopene is a bioactive compound found to have various benefits, especially in today’s lifestyle. To yield the benefits of lycopene, it is essential to consider its bioavailability and the scenarios, which can increase its content in the foods rather than consuming foods that are said to be high in lycopene.
Act smart and achieve surplus!