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The Health Benefits of Lycopene

Researchers have discovered that Lycopene has an incredible range of healthful attributes with regards to a number of types of human ailments and organs. Lycopene has been found to help prevent heart and kidney disease, a variety of cancers, and even help improve sperm count-and this is just a partial list.

Many people attribute Lycopene's health benefits to it being an antioxidant-an antioxidant being a compound that inhibits the oxidation reactions during metabolic processes. Specifically, an oxidation reaction is a chemical process where electrons travel from a given substance to an 'oxidizing agent.' Antioxidants and their effects on the human body have been the subject of hundreds of thousands of scholarly articles. The bottom line for health, however, is that antioxidants reduce the oxidative decay of cellular material-as a material oxidizes, it breaks down; think of rust, this is an example of oxidative decay. Note that oxidation does not necessarily involve the element Oxygen; the term oxidation merely describes the loss of electrons from molecules or atoms. Many, many scientific experiments and studies have shown a high level of correlation between oxidative damage and increased disease rates. For instance, the strong correlation between oxidative decay of coronary arterial material and subsequent inflammation of the endothelium (the innermost aspect of an artery) and atherosclerotic plaque genesis.

Free radicals and antioxidants. The term 'free radical' is often associated with health issues, particularly aging. Understanding what is meant by 'free radical' will help to grant knowledge of how processed tomato products and their associated Lycopene may counteract free radicals' degenerative effects.

A free radical is a general term for what chemists commonly simply call radicals. A radical, in chemistry parlance, is a molecule or even an atom with unpaired electrons. (An unpaired electron (electrons have a negative charge) has no charge balancing proton (which has a positive charge)). A free radical is highly reactive, as nature seeks to entropically 'balance out' charge. Free radicals are constantly being produced in the human body through metabolism.

Antioxidants, one of the most salient being Lycopene, have been shown through research to inhibit free radicals from oxidizing biological materials. This oxidizing of biological material leads to disease and aging.

Some of the prime health benefits of antioxidants, including Lycopene, include:

  1. They have antiatherogenic effects: They prevent "clogging" or "hardening" of the arteries.
  2. They prevent the decay of the brain and the nervous system due to aging.
  3. They are anticarcinogenic (anti-cancer), as they prevent DNA damage.
  4. They prevent ocular cellular damage due to aging.

To learn about specific diseases and problematic health conditions Lycopene helps to fight and prevent, please see the Lycopene Resources section.

While fresh tomatoes may seem to be the best way from which to derive Lycopene, processed tomato products are actually far better... Lycopene is fat soluble, not water soluble, and made far more bioavailable when served with oil (like spaghetti sauce or pizza sauces). Please read more about this in the Lycopene in Processed Tomato Products section.

1. Morning Star's Lycopene Information Welcome Page
2. Lycopene Defined
3. The Health Benefits of Lycopene
4. Past, Present, and Future Lycopene Research
5. Lycopene in Processed Tomato Products
6. Lycopene in Future Food Products
7. Morning Star's Contributions to Lycopene Research
8. Lycopene Resources