Tuesday, 9 October 2012 | 1 comments
Lycopene is becoming famous as a food supplement nowadays. Perhaps this is because of its association with tomatoes, and tomatoes are known to have various health benefits. The truth is, lycopene is not only found in tomatoes; it can also be found in other fruits and vegetables such as watermelons, apricots, pink grapefruits and pink guavas. Lycopene is the natural chemical responsible for providing a red color to these fruits and vegetables.
It is true that tomatoes contain a lot of lycopene; in fact, about 85% of dietary lycopene comes from tomato products such as tomato juice or paste in North America. Lycopene is recently used to prevent heart disease, atherosclerosis and cancers of the prostate, breast, lung, bladder, ovaries, colon, and pancreas. This natural chemical is also said to be beneficial in treating human papilloma virus (HPV) infection, which is a major cause of uterine cancer. Lycopene can also be used to treat cataracts and asthma.
But is Lycopene really effective? The NIH Natural Medicines Comprehensive Database rates effectiveness based on scientific evidence according to the following scale: Effective, Likely Effective, Possibly Effective, Possibly Ineffective, Likely Ineffective, Ineffective, and Insufficient Evidence to Rate. It has rated Lycopene as likely effective for preventing lycopene deficiency, possibly ineffective for preventing diabetes and with insufficient evidence to rate effectiveness for prostate cancer. Previous research in men have shown that taking 4 mg of lycopene supplements twice daily may delay or prevent progression to prostate cancer.
However, recently, evidence seems to be conflicting. While other claim that lycopene from foods such as tomatoes can prevent prostate cancer, other studies show that there is not relationship between lycopene intake and prostate cancer risk. However, in some studies, lycopene was able to reduce prostate cancer risk in men who have a positive family history for prostate cancer.
In studies about the effectiveness of lycopene against breast cancer and bladder, there were conflicting evidences. However, lycopene may be of benefit in preventing ovarian cancer, pancreatic cancer and lung cancer. In fact Research has shown that dietary intake of lycopene of about 12 mg/day or more for men and 6.5 mg/day or more for women could lower lung cancer risk in nonsmoking men aged 40 to 75 and nonsmoking women aged 30 to 55. As for cancers of the colon and rectum, lycopene may have no effect.
Other diseases which may be prevented by lycopene intake are white pre-cancerous patches in the mouth (oral leukoplakia), heart disease, Human papilloma virus (HPV), atherosclerosis), asthma, cataracts and other conditions. However, more studies are needed.
Experts say that the beneficial effects of lycopene can be attributed to its being a powerful antioxidant that may help protect cells from damage. This characteristic is especially useful in cancers.
With regards to safety issues, lycopene is said to be likely safe when taken in appropriate amounts. Lycopene can be safely taken for 30 mg once daily for up to 8 weeks. There are not enough studies regarding the use of lycopene in pregnant and breastfeeding women.
It has not been studied as to whether lycopene could interact with any medicine. However, it is said that taking beta-carotene along with lycopene may increase the amount of lycopene that enters the body. There are no interactions with foods reported.
Before you decide to use lycopene supplements, it is best that you check with your doctor first to see whether this substance may be right for you.