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Lycopene is a red pigment belonging to the family of carotenoids, and is found in red fruits and vegetables, particularly tomatoes. The function of lycopene in plants is to absorb light during the process of photosynthesis, protecting the plants from the effects of photosensitisation. Lycopene, when ingested, travels in the blood, and gets accumulated in the liver, adrenal glands, prostate and colon. Research has proven that lycopene serves as a strong antioxidant, and aids in the prevention of cardiovascular disease and macular degeneration. When consumed with monounsaturated fats, like extra virgin olive oil, lycopene gets absorbed in the body better.
Carotenoids like lycopene have a function of protecting the body cells against free radical damage. Free radicals are molecules that have an unpaired electron in their outermost electron shell. Due to this, they are highly reactive and can damage healthy cells of the body. Lycopene prevents oxidative damage to cell membranes, and other cellular structures, like DNA material, proteins, lipids and other cellular structures.
How Lycopene Works
Lycopene is believed to be a more effective antioxidant than other members of the carotenoid family, which also include betacarotene. The main use of lycopene that helps in the prevention of many diseases is that it is responsible for maintaining the thickness, strength and fluidity of cell membranes. Cell membrane is an integral part of a cell and is totally responsible for what goes in and what comes out of the cell. It chooses selectively, and lets healthy nutrients in and removes cellular debris out of the cell. It also prevents toxic materials from entering into the cells. This maintains the body’s immunity against toxins and infections, the body remains protected from several diseases.
Health Benefits of Lycopene
Research has suggested that lycopene intake reduces the risk of prostate cancer. It is linked with the less amount of prostate specific antigen in the body, which is a protein that is found in high amount in the patients of prostate cancer.
Carotenoids like lycopene are associated with reduced risk of cardiovascular disease. Research says that lycopene reduces the chances of getting heart disorders in most people. It reduces oxidative damage to the cells due to its antioxidant properties and protects the heart cells. Lycopene also lowers the amount of bad cholesterol in the body. Low bad cholesterol level in the body improves the functioning of your heart and reduces the risk of arteries getting blocked due to the accumulation of cholesterol in them.
The central portion of eye is known as macula. Macular degeneration refers to the impairment of the macular portion of the retina, which is the inside back layer of the eye responsible for capturing the images we see and sending those impulses to the brain via optic nerve. Scientists believe that lycopene gets accumulated in certain parts of the eye and protects the eye against macular degeneration.The antioxidant properties of lycopene attribute to this benefit.
Lycopene is a strong antioxidant that fights against the damage caused by free radicals, which harm the DNA material and cell membranes, and cause illness. Lycopene is responsible for enhancing the body’s immune strength and you stay protected from getting infected. Consuming lycopene supplements may reduce the risk of many cancers and macular degeneration. Scientists have also found out that the antioxidant properties of lycopene take care of bone health.
Lycopene is also beneficial for the skin. Lycopene in tomatoes may reduce the effects of sun damage by about 35%. According to research performed on lycopene, it neutralises the free radicals developed as a result of harmful UV rays of the sun.
Lycopene is available in the market in the form of easyto consume supplements, like lycopene capsules, tablets, powder, etc. To get more benefits of lycopene out of tomatoes, you need to cook them first because cooked tomatoes yield more lycopene. Since lycopene is a lipid, cooking the tomatoes in oil first and then consuming them would make the lycopene absorb better in the body.