Surely, many people have heard about various substances that protect us from many diseases and aging processes. It is noteworthy that most of these substances are found in various foods, many of which are quite accessible all year round. Such a useful substance, which we will consider today, includes lycopene, which many have also heard about. Let’s look at the characteristics of lycopene and what it is so useful for.
What is it Lycopene
- 1 What is it Lycopene
- 2 How it works
- 3 The benefits of lycopene
- 4 For vision and cataract prevention
- 5 Help with neuropathy
- 6 For the brain and Alzheimer’s disease
- 7 For spinal injuries
- 8 For epilepsy
- 9 For the cardiovascular system
- 10 For kidney diseases
- 11 For healthy and strong bones
- 12 For the lungs
- 13 UV protection, skin-friendly and anti-aging properties
- 14 For hair
- 15 Some of the features of lycopene:
In plants, there are certain carotenoids-photochemicals/pigments that give color to the leaves, flowers, and fruits of plants. These substances include lycopene, which has a powerful biological effect.
Lycopene turns the fruit red (orange), promotes the breakdown of fat in the body and acts as one of the most powerful natural antioxidants.
How it works
The process of energy production inside cells occurs with the participation of oxygen. Chemically active residues of its molecules (free radicals) are carried by the blood throughout the body and enter into oxidation reactions. They disrupt the functioning of cells and organs, which is the main cause of aging.
Lycopene, in turn, binds free radicals and prevents oxidation processes.
The benefits of lycopene
The clear overall benefits of lycopene for the body are as follows:
- no atherosclerotic plaques are formed in the blood;
- increases the elasticity of blood vessels;
- lowers cholesterol;
- improves the state of the immune system, which suppresses cancer cell degeneration.
Of course, there are many reasons for the appearance of cancer, many of which are still being studied and identified, but one of the main proven causes of cancer is free radicals.
Moreover, numerous studies show that a high concentration of lycopene in the blood reduces the risk of heart attacks by 50%, and strokes – by 39%. And observations of patients with prostate cancer have shown that in the presence of lycopene, the rate of division of cancer cells and the development of metastases decreases by 70-73%.
Lycopene is also able to normalize the intestinal flora, inhibit the development of pathogenic fungi and bacteria. This protective effect on the skin is associated with the ability to absorb ultraviolet rays and prevent cancer mutations of skin cells. Lycopene protects the body from damage from pesticides, toxins, and yeast infection.
The molecule causes apoptosis (programmed death) of infecting fungal cells and candidiasis pathogens. It is effective both for candidiasis in the mouth and for the treatment of vaginal yeast infections. Lycopene increases the number of intracellular reactive oxygen species that kill fungal cells (*).
Prevention of cancer (oncoprotective properties)
Lycopene prevents and slows down several types of cancer cells:
- Breast cancer;
- Prostate cancer;
- Lung cancer;
- Carcinoma of the kidney.
A study published in the American journal of clinical nutrition, involving more than 46,000 men, found a correlation between high lycopene intake and a reduced risk of prostate cancer. The use of tomato sauce, which men ate in large quantities, played a crucial role in this process (prevention of prostate cancer).
This conclusion once again confirmed that tomatoes after heat treatment contain more antioxidants and are better absorbed than raw tomatoes (*).
HPV infection (human papillomavirus) is a common cause of genital warts, cervical cancer in women, and genital cancer in men. Here we are talking about oncogenic types of HPV. People who include lycopene in their diet recover faster from this infection.
For example, women with a high content of lycopene in their blood plasma recover from oncogenic HPV infections much faster, and therefore are less at risk of cervical cancer.
For vision and cataract prevention
Lycopene protects the eyes from oxidative stress, which is the cause of age-related diseases.
As a result of oxidative stress, free radicals are formed and retinal tissues and blood vessels are destroyed.
Scientists have concluded that lycopene:
prevents and slows down cataracts;
it affects the chemical processes that lead to age-related macular degeneration , the leading cause of blindness in the elderly.
By providing antioxidant and anti-inflammatory properties, lycopene stopped a long list of reactions inside the eye cells (for example, degenerative processes in the pigment epithelium) that lead to macular degeneration (*).
Help with neuropathy
Neuropathic pain is a non-inflammatory pain condition caused by nerve damage/damage.
There are many causes of neuropathy: alcoholism, tumors, beriberi, autoimmune diseases (AIDS), rheumatoid arthritis, amputation of limbs, degenerative-dystrophic changes in soft tissues (for example, swelling due to a bruise provokes pressure on the nerve, disrupting its function), chemical poisoning.
One of the most difficult and difficult to treat is diabetic neuropathic pain.
This is a serious microvascular complication in diabetes. Possible toxicity and addiction to painkillers can have a very negative impact on the health of diabetics. Therefore, the search for safe and non-toxic alternatives for pain relief is very relevant.
And lycopene just has analgesic properties. Thus, the results of a study of neuropathy (including diabetic), published in the “European journal of pain”, indicate that lycopene relieves chronic pain in neuropathy (including diabetics), improves overall health and affects weight loss (*).
For the brain and Alzheimer’s disease
Lycopene is recommended for optimizing the treatment of neurological diseases, as it also counteracts the destruction and death of brain cells. The use of this substance slows down the progression of Alzheimer’s disease.
This is due to the ability to eliminate oxidative cell damage and also protect healthy cells from it.
In Alzheimer’s patients, lycopene prevented brain cell death by interacting with specific mitochondrial components. This protects the brain from further degradation.
How it works. The mitochondria of brain cells affected by Alzheimer’s disease undergo changes at the genetic and morphological levels. One of the main factors that provoke Alzheimer’s disease is -amyloid, which forms amyloid plaques in the brain of a sick patient. And a causal relationship was established between mitochondrial dysfunction and this -amyloid (Aß). In turn, the beneficial effect of lycopene in this aspect is that it has a neuroprotective (protective) effect on the mitochondria, counteracting the self-destruction of neurons and damage to brain cells due to the above-mentioned amyloid and neurotoxic substances (*).
Lycopene helps reduce the formation of reactive oxygen species inside cells (free radicals) and superoxides by reducing Aß-induced oxidative stress (*).
Лик it is also important to note that even in the advanced stages of Alzheimer’s disease, lycopene resists further cell damage and death by interacting with mitochondrial compounds.
For spinal injuries
Lycopene helps restore the damaged blood-brain barrier (BBB).
This is a physiological barrier between the circulatory and Central nervous systems. Its main function is to maintain brain homeostasis. In people with spinal cord injuries, the destruction of the BBB causes paralysis.
After a 2016 study on mice with spinal injuries, Chinese scientists concluded that lycopene has the ability to repair damage to the BBB. In this regard, lycopene can be considered as a promising natural remedy for optimizing the treatment of spinal injuries in humans (*).
Lycopene prevents epilepsy attacks, which is very important, since seizures limit the supply of oxygen to the brain and can cause permanent brain damage (with frequent and long seizures).
In an experiment on mice, scientists found that lycopene can not only prevent some epilepsy attacks, but also eliminate neural damage in the brain due to past seizures (*).
This is due to the neuroprotective property of lycopene.
For the cardiovascular system
Lycopene is a completely harmless substance, since it is biochemically neutral and is excreted unchanged through the intestines. That is, the body takes it for itself exactly as much as necessary, independently removing the excess.
It is worth noting that experimentally there are still no clear and strictly established maximum permissible doses, but there are therapeutic doses and indicators of daily need for lycopene, side effects from exceeding which have not been established. But always and everywhere there are precautions against excessive excess consumption: in our case, any fanatical consumption of products with a high content of lycopene (for example, tomatoes) is fraught with the appearance of allergic reactions, which should not be forgotten. An adult is recommended to consume at least 5-10 mg of lycopene per day (children-up to 3 mg.).
The biochemical neutrality of lycopene plays an important role in the metabolism of cholesterol in the blood. In what way?
Once in the blood, the lycopene molecule attaches to the low-density cholesterol molecule, preventing its oxidation (this is what leads to the formation of cholesterol plaques on the walls of blood vessels). Thus, with the support of lycopene, cholesterol plaques are formed much less often.
Lycopene is recommended for:
- Hypertension (high blood pressure);
- Coronary heart disease;
- Varicose veins and thrombophlebitis;
- The cleansing of toxins;
- Recovery of patients after strokes, heart attacks, and traumatic brain injuries (and for the prevention of these problems);
It has also been found that high levels of lycopene in the bloodstream are associated with lower mortality in people with metabolic syndrome (a combination of disorders that lead to cardiovascular diseases).(*)
Speaking of hypertension, it is known that it is a risk factor for kidney cancer. I’m sure many of you didn’t know about this. Therefore, we move on to the next point of the benefits of lycopene.
For kidney diseases
High doses of lycopene slow the growth of renal cell carcinoma and can potentially serve as a prevention of this type of cancer.
Renal cell carcinoma is the most common cancer of the upper urinary tract in humans and accounts for 80-85% of malignant kidney tumors (*).
For example, people who are predisposed to high blood pressure (including due to an increased risk of kidney cancer) are recommended low-salt diets led by vegetables and fruits that are rich in lycopene.
The antioxidant and oncoprotective effects of lycopene are also useful for other renal ailments: renal dysfunction, mercury nephrotoxicity, chronic pathology of the kidneys and their tissues, oxidative stress and kidney inflammation due to obesity.
For healthy and strong bones
Lycopene reduces oxidative stress in the bones, which causes brittle bone structure and increases the risk of fractures. Performing its useful functions, lycopene slows down degenerative processes and cellular self-destruction inside the bones, significantly reducing the effects of oxidative stress and thereby making the bones healthier and, consequently, stronger (*).
For the lungs
Lycopene is also good for the lungs. In 2000, a 10-year large-scale study was conducted with 124,207 adults. The risk of lung cancer was lower in people who ate a lot of carotenoids (a class of antioxidants that includes beta-carotene, alpha-carotene, and lycopene).
Lycopene protects against asthma. After 7 days of using a 30 mg lycopene Supplement, half of the study participants reported improvement.
UV protection, skin-friendly and anti-aging properties
Like other antioxidants, lycopene, being a part of sunscreens, soothes the skin and reduces redness, and also protects against the harmful effects of ultraviolet rays (UVA, UVB). At high concentrations, it prevents the damaging effects of free radicals in the deep layers of the epidermis, reducing the risk of skin cancer (*).
Lycopene, entering the body, increases the content of carotenoids in the blood and blocks reactive oxygen species that provoke the appearance of wrinkles. Thanks to its properties, lycopene is also able to lighten scars and post-acne spots, reduce age-related pigmentation, even out a dull complexion and refresh tired skin.
Excess dihydrotestosterone (DHT) causes hair loss (especially in men). This is due to the inhibition of the active stage of growth of hair follicles, as a result of which they “sleep”, so the hair either grows slowly or does not grow at all.
DHT blockers can help you solve your hair problems: vitamins E and C, B3 (Niacin) and B7 (Biotin), zinc and selenium, magnesium and flavonoids, proanthocyanides, and, of course, lycopene. Therefore, a proper diet with sufficient lycopene content can eliminate excess DHT, contributing to slowing down the process of baldness.
Thus, as part of shampoos/conditioners and masks, lycopene helps to improve the scalp in dermatitis and psoriasis, eliminate dandruff and dryness, reduce hair breakage and strengthen their roots, and also helps to stimulate the growth of healthy hair.
Products containing lycopene
Unfortunately, the body can not synthesize lycopene on its own, it is formed in plants during photosynthesis. To get enough of it, you need to know what foods are rich in it.
For example, one of the signs of lycopene content in a plant product is a rich red color, but lycopene also contains products of other colors. The absolute champion in terms of lycopene content is tomatoes, especially heat-treated ones (including tomato paste and sauces). It also contains the following products: watermelon, apricot, pink grapefruit, red cabbage, guava, papaya, asparagus, mango, carrot.
Speaking of papaya, I note that lycopene contains the Mature red flesh of this fruit. Papaya fruits are often green and unripe in stores from April to October. To ripen the green papaya, place it in a cool, dry place for a few days, until the flesh darkens and gives off a pleasant aroma of ripe fruit. Papaya is low in calories. Try drying papaya for snacking. 1 Cup of papaya contains 2.6 mg of lycopene.
Some of the features of lycopene:
Heat treatment increases its content in the product and improves assimilation. To fill the daily need for lycopene, you need to eat at least 1 tsp (with peas) of tomato paste or 2-3 medium tomatoes.
The second feature is its solubility in fat, so for better absorption, you need to use lycopene products with fat (for example, vegetable oil, sour cream or Natur. yogurt). Frequent use of such products without fat in some cases can lead to disruption of the gallbladder.