Higher lycopene intake and higher blood lycopene levels are strongly associated with reduced risk for a variety of cancers, helping to reduce the thickness of clogged-up carotid arteries in some people, according to several studies such as Lycopene and preclinical carotid atherosclerosis, as well as being of benefit with cardiovascular diseases and the metabolic syndrome. Also see the article by Alex Wilson on the health benefits of lycopene, “Slash Chronic Disease Risk with Lycopene – Life Extension,” December 2012 issue of Life Extension magazine (now in print and online).
Lycopene’s health benefits regarding research on lycopene and cardiovascular issues and cancer prevention has been in the news recently and in the past few years. According to the September 13, 2010 Dr. Oz TV show the five foods that may starve cancer cells and keep them from growing new blood vessels that feed the cancer– are five foods that may actually starve the cancer cells. And they include some vegetables with lycopene such as cooked tomatoes. Also see the articles at the Dr. Oz website, “What You Can Eat to Defeat Cancer,” and “Five Foods That Starve Cancer.”
If you get arthritis from nightshade vegetables such as peppers and tomatoes, lycopene is also found in supplements not made from tomatoes and vegetables containing lycopene that are not of the nightshade family such as red cabbage, guavas, and asparagus. See, Top 10 Foods Highest in Lycopene.
There also are other lycopene-rich fruits and vegetables from pink grapefruit and parsley to watermelon that are not nightshade vegetables or fruits that irritate some people with arthritis. And as far as meats, there’s liver pate mentioned among the top 10 foods highest in lycopene. And there’s also chili powder for those seeking lycopene from condiments or spices. Even ketchup has lycopene, but also along with added sugars.
These five foods include the following vegetables, fruits, and fish
1. Bok choy. This is a Chinese-type celery sold in most Sacramento supermarkets. If you find organic bok choy at one of Sacramento’s Whole Food Markets or the Sacramento or Davis Natural Foods Co-op, all the better. If you can’t get organic boy choy, most supermarkets carry it in the section next to the celery or cabbage in the produce sections. You can eat boy choy raw in a salad, cut up like celery, or stir-fry it with Chinese vegetables and brown rice or whole oat groats, or any other grain or vegetable that is favorable to your body’s needs.
2. Cooked Tomatoes. Tomatoes contain more cancer-fighting properties than raw tomatoes. Both contain the molecule lycopene, but heating the tomato changes its chemical structure and makes the benefits more readily available to your body. According to the article, “Five Foods That Starve Cancer,” you should eat 2-3 (1/2 cup) servings of cooked tomatoes a week.
3. Flounder. This fish is rich in omega-3 fatty acids and low in mercury. Three 6-ounce servings a week is ideal. Also Alaskan wild-caught salmon is rich in omega-3 fatty acids as are some other fish. Make sure the wild-caught fish you buy is both high in omega-3 fatty acids and low in mercury.
4. Strawberries. The antioxidants in strawberries help fight cancers. You should eat 1 cup a day, including the juice, according to Dr. Oz’s website article, “Five Foods That Starve Cancer.” But remember, since strawberries may be contaminated with pesticides, choose organic strawberries. And don’t eat excess strawberries as they could start affecting your thyroid.
If you have hypothyroidism, check out the article on foods to avoid for hypthyroidism. See “Foods to Avoid for Hypothyroidism.” Some cruciferous vegetables and some fruits, including strawberries are on the list. Ironically, some of the cruciferous vegetables and strawberries are on other lists of what to eat to help reduce the risk of cancer.
5. Artichokes. Did you know that the hearts of artichokes contain 3 different cancer-fighting molecules? According to Dr. Oz’s website article on “Five Foods That Starve Cancer,” enjoy ¼ cup of hearts per day.
How Angiogenesis Makes Cancer Cells Multiply
The growth of new capillary blood vessels is called angiogenesis, a vital process for reproduction and healing. Cancer turns the body against itself by hijacking the angiogenesis process. Just as healthy tissues require oxygen and nutrients, malignant tumors need a blood supply to fuel their growth. But, unlike normal tissues, cancer keeps angiogenesis permanently switched on to ensure that it has a dedicated, uninterrupted blood supply.
Cancer is so difficult to cure is that it takes too long to be detected, according to the article on Dr. Oz’s site, “What You Can Eat to Defeat Cancer.” By the time blood vessels have grown in the cancer, or when it is advanced, it’s much more difficult to treat. In a person with advanced cancer, uncontrolled angiogenesis keeps cancer cells growing and allows them to spread.
What angiogenisis means is that blood vessels are growing that feed the cancer cells with nutrient-rich blood. That process allows the cancer cells to multiply and spread, growing even more blood vessels.
You have to turn to specific foods to prevent angiogenesis in the first place. Without angiogenesis, cancers can’t grow and become dangerous. Microscopic cancers that form in our bodies all the time are mostly harmless. These cancers aren’t even visible on a standard X-ray or body scan.
How can you use certain foods to prevent cancer from multiplying and spreading? Angiogenesis needs to be brought under control before the tumor can get a foothold. This is where your everyday diet comes into play, according to the most recent medical studies. To read more on this subject, check out the article, “Five Foods That Starve Cancer.”
Disturbing new research suggests that microscopic cancer, small cancer cells that can only been seen under a microscope, is widely prevalent. A recent study of women in their 40s indicated that 40% of them had microscopic breast cancer. Even more shocking, almost 100% of people in their 70s will have microscopic cancer in their thyroid glands, according to the article on Dr. Oz’s site, “What You Can Eat to Defeat Cancer.”
A microscopic tumor can grow up to 16,000 times its original size in as little as 2 weeks. But new groundbreaking research from The Angiogenesis Foundation proposes that you can stop cancer before it begins to grow. This new preventive approach is called anti-angiogenesis.
To learn more about anti-angiogenesis and the groundbreaking research at The Angiogenesis Foundation, click here. According to the article on the Dr. Oz website, What You Can Eat to Defeat Cancer, “anti-angiogenesis encourages that, by changing the way you eat, you can change your ‘internal environment,’ thereby depriving cancer cells the opportunity to grow and multiply. Certain foods, eaten in the correct portions and frequency, can provide cancer-starving benefits.”
Cook your tomatoes and carrots to get more nutrients out of them
Plant antioxidant is eaten raw many times, but poorly absorbed. Tomatoes need to be cooked to get their full nutritional value regarding lycopene. You check out these details in the scientific journal studies, “Some dietary fibers reduce the absorption of carotenoids in women,” and and “Dietary fiber reduces the antioxidative effect of a carotenoid and alpha-tocopherol mixture on LDL oxidation ex vivo in humans.”
Take a look at the December, 2012 issue of Life Extension magazine’s article on lycopene, and you’ll see 85 titles of medical and scientific journal articles, studies mentioned in connection with health benefits of lycopene researched.
Lycopene, an important plant antioxidant is commonly consumed—but poorly absorbed by the body needs to be cooked to eat the full benefit. Lycopene is a carotenoid with a unique structure that drives its intense free-radical-trapping activity. Lycopene also operates by additional mechanisms to provide health-giving benefits in the form of cellular communication and cell cycling.
Lycopene’s fiber content interferes with its absorption and bioavailablity
The problem is that the fiber content in lycopene-rich foods such as tomatoes interferes with lycopene absorption and bioavailability. Eating concentrated tomato-based foods like pasta sauce with olive oil provides far greater absorption. Supplementation with lycopene also boosts absorption into the bloodstream, especially when taken with the heaviest meal of the day.
Controlled studies show that increased lycopene levels result in broad cellular benefits and reduced incidences of cancer, diabetes, Alzheimer’s, and cardiovascular disease. Lycopene has at least four other important health-promoting mechanisms, according to the December 2012 issue of Life Extension Magazine’s article, Slash Chronic Disease Risk with Lycopene – Life Extension.”
- Lycopene facilitates cell-to-cell communication at sites called “gap junctions;” these junctions are essential for cells to know when to stop growing which is key for preventing cancer from developing.
- Lycopene stimulates the immune system to help destroy invading microorganisms and early cancer cells.
- Lycopene regulates endocrine (glandular) communication pathways.
- Lycopene regulates the cell reproductive cycle, preventing cancer development.
Humans are incapable of producing carotenoids, so we rely on our diet to obtain sufficient amounts. Tomatoes are our main dietary source of lycopene, but lycopene from fresh tomatoes is less bioavailable than that from processed tomato products.
Lycopene, found in nature in tomatoes and other red fruits, is not well-absorbed in the intestinal tract from unprocessed foods. Studies show that people who consume large quantities of processed tomato products like ketchup, pizza sauce, and tomato paste have lower rates of chronic illness. But if you add the fatty, melted cheese and the white flour bread or crust made with wheat and not gluten-free for some people sensitive to the dough, only the tomato part may be the healthiest of those foods on a pizza.
Lycopene and Cancer Prevention
In addition to reducing oxidant stress in prostate tissue, lycopene also reduces inflammatory signaling, prevents DNA damage, modulates the expression of important endocrine growth factors, and enhances communication between cancer cells at “gap junctions,” helping them stop growing out of control. Lycopene also slows the new blood vessel growth that prostate cancers need to support their development. You can find the medical studies that provided this information in the resources listed at the end of the Life Extension article, December 2012 issue, on lycopene, “Slash Chronic Disease Risk with Lycopene – Life Extension,”
The Life Extension article menitons a well-publicized investigation in which men with newly-diagnosed prostate tumors were supplemented with lycopene 15 mg twice daily for three weeks prior to surgical removal of diseased tissue. In supplemented patients, the tumors were found at surgery to be significantly smaller and less invasive than those in control patients.
The tumors were also significantly more likely to be lower-grade in supplemented than in control patients. Levels of the tumor marker called prostate specific antigen (PSA) fell substantially in supplemented patients, while they rose by about the same rate in control patients.
Other human studies have shown similar effects, including slowing the rate of PSA increase. This information can be found in the studies mentioned in the December 2012 issue of Life Extension Magazine’s article on lycopene. Check out those studies, which are the primary soures, “Effects of lycopene supplementation in patients with localized prostate cancer,” and “Role of lycopene and tomato products in prostate health.”
Lycopene and Cardiovascular Disease
People with low blood lycopene levels suffer from increased risk for atherosclerosis, according to the Life Extension article in the December 2012 issue,”Slash Chronic Disease Risk with Lycopene – Life Extension. What scientists measured in the cardiovascular study of the effects of lycopene is the greater thickness and stiffness of their arteries. In particular, researchers looked at ultrasound scan results of the participant’s carotid arteries (those leading to the brain).
Those with thicker arteries also had lower blood levels of lycopene than do those with normal carotids. You can check out those studies, “Lycopene and preclinical carotid atherosclerosis,” and “Lycopene and heart health.” Study results found that, those with the highest lycopene blood levels have a 45% lower risk of atherosclerosis. See the studies or their abstracts, “Serum carotenoids and atherosclerosis. The Rotterdam Study,” and “Lycopene and cardiovascular disease.”
You have studies showing that if your body absorbs lycopene, it can decrease your total cholesterol by 5.9% and LDL cholesterol by 12.9% (and by 50% in animal studies). The question in part is, when it comes to humans, how well is lycopene’s ability to inhibit cholesterol synthesis?
Lycopene doesn’t reduce inflammation
Lycopene from tomatoes isn’t going to stop inflammation or at least change the inflammatory markers. And lycopene won’t put the kabosh on insulin resistance. Tomatoes are sweet. Tomato juice is full of sugar per glass or soup bowl. So check out the various studies to see exactly what lycopene has done in various research published in scientific, nutrition, or medical journals.
When you read abstracts of studies, keep in mind whether what worked on animals or in a Petri dish will work on you or humans. And check out the studies done with humans. Then find out whether the people had just begun to have hardened arteries or were advanced, and did it reverse anyone’s clogged arteries.
The only way to find out is to try eating vegetables with lycopene if you’re not allergic to them, and see whether lycopene from vegetables is being absorbed by your body. It’s an individual response. But the studies on lycopene and thickness of carotid arteries are important. It’s time to take another look also at studies of lycopene and prostate issues.
Lycopene and cardiovascular diseases: an update. Curr Med Chem. 2011;18(8):1146-63.
Slash Chronic Disease Risk with Lycopene – Life Extension Magazine. December 2012.
Lycopene and heart health. Mol Nutr Food Res. 2012 Feb;56(2):296-303.
Plasma antioxidants and asymptomatic carotid atherosclerotic Disease in Manfredonia Study. Eur J Cardiovasc Prev Rehabil. 2009 Jun;16(3):351-7.
Relationship between carotid intima-media thickness and symptomatic and asymptomatic peripheral arterial disease
Lycopene and preclinical carotid atherosclerosis. J Biol Regul Homeost Agents. 2011 Jul-Sep;25(3):435-41.
Serum carotenoids and atherosclerosis. The Rotterdam Study. Atherosclerosis. 2000 Jan;148(1):49-56.
Lycopene and cardiovascular disease.” Am J Clin Nutr. 2000 Jun;71(6 Suppl):1691S-5S; discussion 96S-7S.
Potent antioxidative activity of lycopene: A potential role in scavenging hypochlorous acid. Free Radic Biol Med. 2010 Jul 15;49(2):205-13.
Tomato lycopene and low density lipoprotein oxidation: a human dietary intervention study. Lipids. 1998 Oct;33(10):981-4.
Effects of tomato juice consumption on plasma and lipoprotein carotenoid concentrations and the susceptibility of low density lipoprotein to oxidative modification. J Nutr Sci Vitaminol (Tokyo). 2001 Jun;47(3):213-21.
Protective activity of tomato products on in vivo markers of lipid oxidation. Eur J Nutr. 2003 Aug;42(4):201-6.
Tomato juice decreases LDL cholesterol levels and increases LDL resistance to oxidation. Br J Nutr. 2007 Dec;98(6):1251-8.
Effects of Lycopene on the Initial State of Atherosclerosis in New Zealand white rabbits (NZW). PLoS One. 2012;7(1):e30808.
Carotenoid-rich tomatoes linked to cholesterol cuts
Lycopene and preclinical carotid atherosclerosis.