Tomatoes and Lycopene :Eating at least two servings a week of tomato sauce can significantly decrease the risk of developing prostate cancer
omatoes and Lycopene
Lycopene, a naturally occurring chemical found mostly in tomatoes, but also in watermelons, pink grapefruits, guava, and papaya, has long been touted as one of the most "prostate healthy" compounds available. Why?
Among other things, lycopene acts as a powerful antioxidant and helps protect the body against cancer. During normal cellular processes, extra oxygen atoms, or free radicals, are often produced and are used by the body to destroy foreign invaders like bacteria.
However, if these free radicals are allowed to roam unchecked, they can cause cellular DNA to break down, mutating the cells and transforming normal cells into cancerous cells. Antioxidants such as lycopene mop up free radicals and thereby might contribute to the protection against cancer.
Research over the years has demonstrated that the benefits offered by lycopene are best realized when derived from tomato-based sources, both because of the way it interacts with other nutrients in the fruit, and because of the way it is absorbed by the body when ingested from food-based sources. The combination of these factors might therefore make tomato-based foods more potent than lycopene supplementation in the fight against prostate cancer cell growth.
In fact, studies have shown that not only are tomatoes better than lycopene alone, but that processed and cooked tomatoes are even better. After studying the dietary habits of the men enrolled in one long-term study, researchers found that those who consumed at least two servings of tomato sauce a week over the course of the 12-year study demonstrated a 28% lower risk of developing organ-confined prostate cancer, a 35% lower risk of developing locally advanced disease, and a 36% lower risk of developing metastatic disease. At the same time, however, there was no association between prostate cancer risk and the amount of fruits and vegetables overall—including tomatoes—that the study participants consumed.
Why would tomato sauce be better than tomatoes? It's unclear exactly why, but it seems that processing and cooking a tomato releases compounds such as lycopene from their storage sites within the fruit, changing the way that these nutrients are absorbed and used in the body, and therefore changing the way the lycopene affects the growth of prostate cancer cells.
In an interesting follow-up to this study, the same group of researchers tracked tomato sauce consumption in men from the original study who developed prostate cancer to see if it had a continuing effect on their health. In these men, consuming an extra two servings per week of tomato sauce after diagnosis reduced their risk of disease progression by nearly 20%, demonstrating that the ability of antioxidants to slow cancer cell growth doesn't end even if the tumors are clinically detectable.
Eating at least two servings a week of tomato sauce can significantly decrease the risk of developing prostate cancer