Animals need carotenoids to help them with their biological coloration. They are also known to be essential for plant growth and photosynthesis, and vital for good health in animals.
Only green plants and some microorganisms (bacteria, fungi, and lower algae) can manufacture carotenoids. Humans and animals depend on plants as a source for this vital chemical even though they store it in their bodies.
Lycopene is a proven antioxidant and may lower the risk of certain diseases including cancer and heart disease. It is deposited into the liver, lungs, prostate gland, testes, colon, and skin of foods.
Lycopene prevents oxidation of low density lipoprotein (LDL) cholesterol and reduces the risk of developing atherosclerosis and coronary heart disease. A recent study, published in 1998, shows that daily intake of tomato products providing at least 40mg of lycopene was enough to substantially reduce low density lipoprotein (LDL) oxidation.
An increased risk of atherosclerosis and coronary heart disease is associated with high LDL oxidation. A person can get this level of lycopene by drinking two glasses of tomato juice a day. Research shows that the body absorbs lycopene better if it is processed into tomato juice, sauce, paste and ketchup.
During the processing of tomatoes, the chemical bound lycopene is converted by the temperature to make it more easily absorbed by the body. There is research going on that suggests that lycopene can reduce the risk of prostate cancer and cancers of the lung, bladder, cervix, and skin.
One recent study involved 33 men who were randomly assigned to take or not take lycopene for 30 days before their prostate operations. Before surgery, the volunteers showed no obvious signs that the cancer had spread. After the surgery, the doctors discovered that the cancer tissue was less likely to extend clear to the edges of the lycopene users' prostate gland.
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