The word ‘Lycopene’ is derived from neo-Latin lycopersicum.   The deep red crystalline pigment produced by Lycopene was isolated in certain berries  as early as 1873 by Hartsen. But the word Lycopene was coined much later  in the year 1903. However, the therapeutic properties of Lycopene were  not highlighted until 1960.   Lycopene belongs to a class of compounds known as Carotenoids, which are the yellow, orange, and red pigments synthesized in plants. There are about 700 carotenoids. Their function in plants is to absorb light in photosynthesis, protecting plants against ‘photosensitization’. In humans it is found in different organs or locations such as lungs, liver, blood, adrenal glands breasts, testis, etc. Antioxidant action:Lycopene is a very good antioxidant. It prevents cell damage and helps in rejuvenating cell functions by countering free radicals in the body.   Cardiovascular: Lycopene appears to  inhibit platelet-derived growth factor, which is associated with the development and progression of cardiovascular disease.    Oxidative stress: In certain studies it is found that Lycopene has reduced cell oxidative stress and reduces inflammation.   Asthma: Asthmatic adults receiving lycopene treatments experienced improvement in airway inflammation.  Cancer: Research indicates that diets rich in Lycopene may reduce the risk of several cancers such as cervical, rectal & colon, esophageal,   prostate,  stomach cancers. Lycopene is  defined chemically as an ‘acyclic carotene’  with 11 conjugated double bonds. Lycopene is absorbed in similar way  like fats and transported via the lymphatic system into the liver  and therefore, Lycopene is a lipophilic, thus, its absorption is dependent on the diet. Studies have demonstrated that higher fat diets increase lycopene absorption, while cholesterol-lowering drugs reduce its absorption. In our body LDL is the predominant carrier of Lycopene. It is not soluble in water.  The biochemistry of lycopene is unique because it has no pro-vitamin A activity, as compared with other carotenoids, such as alpha-carotene and beta-carotene. Guava, tomato, watermelon,  etc., are good sources of Lycopene.  Generally tomato is widely available and culinary based resource for Lycopene. Lycopene Chemistry In general several food processing techniques such as high temperature, UV irradiation, mechanical agitation, additives and so on  destruct micro nutrients, enzymes in vegetables or fruits.    On the contrary, boiled tomato provides more Lycopene than its raw counterpart. Because,  in the case of tomatoes, thermal processing breaks down the cell walls of tomato which promotes the effective release of Lycopene.  Tomato peels are good sources of Lycopene and peels should be consumed along with the fruit. Effect of food processing Pharmacological  action Dietary sources Ageing could potentially affect absorption of Lycopene in the body. The absorption is  effective upto the age of 35. Beyond this age the absorption reduces.  Even lycopene distribution within different organs of the body depends on the age factor.    In addition to that, its absorption or bio action depends upon health conditions, medicines consumed and even life styles. Lycopene and age groups Some research studies show the following results (Credit:  a)Lycopene intake appears to have decreased the PSA levels in the blood for males giving relief against prostrate cancer.  b)Lycopene levels were inversely correlated with skin. The inferences were based on a ‘12-week single blind, randomized clinical trial’, in which tomato extract protected the skin from UV induced erythema.  c)A longitudal study (17 years) on the correlation between carotenoid intake and risk for hip fracture in post-menopausal women has demonstrated a protective effect of high lycopene plasma levels   d)Tomato extract, both alone and in combination with conventional antihypertensive medications, decreased systolic and diastolic blood pressure and reduced levels of lipid peroxidation products.  e)Increasing dietary consumption of tomato-based foods may beneficially increase serum adiponectin concentrations among postmenopausal women.  f)The intake of Lyc-O-Mato significantly reduced DNA damage in lymphocytes subjected to oxidative stress A few research studies Lycopene and PSA  Epidemiological studies have shown that lycopene has anti-prostate cancer effect While it is clear that Lycopene is a beneficial substance it has its other effects as well.    Lycopene supplements may increase blood thinning effects. Hence, people on blood thinning medications may need to take advice from Physician.  However, natural lycopene from tomatoes may not be a problem  Lycopene supplements are not advised for young children and pregnant women unless otherwise Doctor recommends.  Lycopene supplements may cross interfere with Estrogen medications.   Excessive dosage of Lycopene supplements may cause: indigestion, skin pigment problems, premature births, underweight baby births, The other side LYCOPENE Although Lycopene belongs to family of Caretenoids, it doesn’t get converted in to Vitamin A in the body
Health Scan March 2019