You Say Tomato, Let’s Talk Lycopene

As the days have shortened and the nights have grown crisp, the leaves on the trees outside AICR’s Washington, DC, headquarters have begun to show their true colors. Some of these colors are derived from lycopene, a dietary compound that plays a role in preventing cancer.

Lycopene is one of the more well-studied compounds for cancer prevention. It belongs to a class of compounds known as carotenoids and is one of the compounds responsible for leaves’ brilliant reds, oranges, and yellow hues.  These fat-soluble pigments are present in many foods, as well, and are what make tomatoes red, pumpkins orange, and squashes yellow.

AICR’s expert report and its continuous updates have found that lycopene reduces the risk of prostate cancer.  Along with tomatoes and tomato products, lycopene is also found in other red fruits such as watermelon and red guavas.  Interestingly, our bodies can absorb more lycopene from cooked tomato products like spaghetti sauce, ketchup, or salsa because heat changes the configuration of lycopene’s molecules, making it more available.

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