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Nutrition Noteworthy

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Lycopene and Mr. Prostate: Best Friends Forever


Lycopene is one of over 600 carotenoids found in human plasma and it is responsible for the red pigment found in tomatoes, watermelons, and red grapefruits. Its structure consists of 11 conjugated double bonds that are all in the trans form, with a half-life of 11-14 days. Carotenoids are absorbed in the intestine and transported in the serum via their incorporation into chylomicrons. Heating or processing tomatoes has been shown to increase lycopene absorption by converting it from the trans form into the cis form. Lycopene is known to be one of the strongest biological quenchers of free radicals derived from oxygen, and is therefore, one of the most powerful and effective dietary sources of antioxidants. The risk of prostate cancer, the second leading cause of cancer death in American men, has been significantly linked to lycopene levels in the body. Studies have indicated that prostate cancer patients have less lycopene and more oxidized lipids and proteins in their body in comparison to controls. Increased lycopene levels in the blood, prostate, and diet have all been correlated with a reduced risk of developing prostate cancer.

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