Lycopene Makes Tomatoes a Key Food to Fight Cancer, Heart Disease
Carotenoids are a family of over six-hundred phytochemicals, including alpha-carotene, beta-carotene, lycopene, lutein, and zeaxanthin. Carotenoids are abundant in green and yellow-orange vegetables and fruits and help to defend the body’s tissues against oxidative damage, which is a natural byproduct of our metabolic processes. Oxidative damage from free radicals contributes to chronic diseases and aging.1
The levels of carotenoids in your skin are a good indicator of your overall health because these levels parallel the levels of plant-derived phytochemicals in general. In my medical practice, I use a carotenoid skin-testing method to non-invasively track my patients’ progress as they adopt a Nutritarian diet. In a study of over 13,000 American adults, low blood levels of carotenoids were found to be a predictor of earlier death. Lower total carotenoids, alpha-carotene, and lycopene in the blood were all linked to increased risk of death from all causes; of all the carotenoids, very low blood lycopene was the strongest predictor of mortality.2
Lycopene is the signature carotenoid of the tomato. The lycopene in the American diet is 85 percent derived from tomatoes.3 Lycopene is found circulating in the blood and also concentrates in the male reproductive system, hence its protective effects against prostate cancer.4 In the skin, lycopene helps to prevent UV damage from the sun, protecting against skin cancer.5 In my book, The End of Heart Disease, I examine the many beneficial properties of lycopene: In addition to its anti-cancer properties, lycopene has also been intensively studied for its beneficial cardiovascular effects.