What is lycopene and how does it affect health?

Lycopene is present in all red fruits and vegetables, but its concentrations are highest in tomatoes and it becomes more readily available and biologically active when it comes from processed tomatoes with a small amount of cooking oil added. Lycopene, the red pigment found in foods such as tomatoes and watermelon, has also long been promoted as an antioxidant.

Studies have shown that men can reduce their risk of prostate cancer by consuming a variety of red fruits and vegetables. Further, some research indicates that men with newly diagnosed prostate cancer can slow the development of existing prostate cancer cells by increasing their lycopene intake. Laboratory studies have also shown that lycopene slow the growth of or even kill prostate cancer cells, by intercepting the cancer's ability to make the connections it needs to attach to a healthy blood supply.  However, the reported benefits of lycopene as a prostate cancer-fighting agent seem to vary greatly.

Some research have shown evidence that a diet high in fruits and vegetables is associated with a lower risk of stroke and support the recommendation that people get more than five servings of fruits and vegetables a day, which would likely lead to a major reduction in the number of strokes worldwide. Lycopene may decrease the ability of LDL ("bad") cholesterol to form the plaques in arteries that can cause heart attacks and strokes.  Lycopene also has other properties that may link it to decreased stroke risk such as inhibiting cholesterol production and preventing blood clots and the clumping together of blood platelets.

Foods such as tomatoes are generally healthy for anyone to add to their diet, but for men especially these foods can be part of a good regiment of healthy eating and exercise in the prevention of prostate cancer. In the continued fight to prevent and treat all types of cancers, new findings are continuously published regarding the potential benefits of certain foods and healthy diets.

We may not know all there is to know about the prostate cancer-fighting benefits of foods like tomatoes, but it is encouraging to hear that men are continually being reminded of the role that fruits and vegetables play in their wellbeing. Exercise and a healthy diet are the easiest first steps for men to take. The exercise component is important to note as well, as obesity can be a significant factor in prostate cancer risk and can pose issues during prostate cancer surgery.