Lycopene is the carotenoid which gives tomatoes their red color and is one of the major carotenoids in the diet of North Americans and Europeans. It is found in high concentration in testes, adrenal gland and prostate. Levels of lycopene seem to decrease with age. Several studies suggest that lycopene may help to prevent cardiovascular disease and cancers of the prostate, pancreas and gastrointestinal tract. According to the results of a 1997 study done in Germany, lycopene from tomato paste-is more bio-available than lycopene from fresh tomatoes.

Prostate cancer

Tomato-based foods, which are rich in lycopene, seem to be linked with a lower risk of prostate cancer. In a study published in 1995, researchers at Harvard Medical School assessed the links between diet during a one-year period and prostate cancer in almost 48,000 men taking part in the Health Professionals Follow-up Study. They found that men who ate more foods such as tomatoes, pizza and tomato sauce which are high in lycopene, were less likely to be at risk of prostate cancer.

Beta carotene dangerousHeart attack

Researchers involved in the EURAMIC study assessed the links between antioxidants and heart attacks. They studied people from ten European countries and analyzed for levels of carotenoids in those who had suffered heart attacks and those who had not. They found protective effects of alpha carotene, beta carotene, and lycopene. Lycopene was particularly protective with those in the highest intake group, having around half the risk of heart attack of those in the lowest intake group.

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