I Scream, You Scream, We All Scream For Lycopene!

I Scream, You Scream, We All Scream For Lycopene!
By Alyssa Mitola, RD and the Laura Cipullo Whole Nutrition Services Team

Photo Credit: jacki-dee via Compfight cc
Photo Credit: jacki-dee via Compfight cc

What is Lycopene? Lycopene is a powerful antioxidant. Although chemically related to vitamin A, lycopene does not function in our bodies like the vitamin. Rather lycopene serves as the most powerful antioxidant of the >600 carotenoids, riding our body of harmful free radicals and oxidizing species. Lycopene is a red pigment found in fruits and vegetables. You may already know that tomatoes are a rich source of lycopene, but lycopene is also found in guava, papaya, watermelon, grapefruit, and apricots.

Photo Credit: EJP Photo via Compfight cc
Photo Credit: EJP Photo via Compfight cc

Lycopene is constantly being researched for its potential health benefits, most notably in relation to cancer and cardiovascular disease. The strongest research comes from lycopene’s role in preventing prostate cancer. Many studies have found that people with higher intakes of lycopene have reduced rates of prostate cancer (Giovannuci et. al 1995; Zu et. al 2011). In addition, a 2013 study published in the British Journal of Medicine showed people consuming higher amounts of lycopene had less incidences of cardiovascular disease. Researchers are also currently investigating lycopene’s role in sunburn, gingivitis, osteoporosis, asthma, and mental disorders.

 

The health benefits of lycopene are numerous and we should try to include sources of lycopene daily. However, this does not mean lycopene should be taken as a supplement. Rather lycopene should come from a diet rich in fruits and vegetables. Lycopene is actually more bioavailable (available to our bodies) when it is heated. Therefore foods like tomato puree, tomato sauce, tomato paste, and tomato juice are even richer sources of lycopene. When purchasing tomato-based products, be sure to look out for no sodium or low sodium products. Eating lycopene with a healthy, fat like olive oil, will also increase your body’s ability to absorb the lycopene. With tomatoes in season get your fill of lycopene. Serve your tomatoes with some olive oil or make some homemade salsa, a tomato salad, or a fresh pot of tomato sauce!

  

 

References:

1) Giovannucci E, Ascherio A, Rimm EB, Stampfer MJ, Colditz GA, Willett WC. Intake of carotenoids and retinol in relation to risk of prostate cancer. J Natl Cancer Inst. 1995;87(23):1767-1776.

2) Fielding JM, Rowley KG, Cooper P, et al.: Increases in plasma lycopene concentration after consumption of tomatoes cooked with olive oil. Asia Pac J Clin Nutr 14 (2): 131-6, 20.

3) Holzapfel NP, Holzapfel BM, Champ S, Feldthusen J, Clements J, Hutmacher W. The Potential Role of Lycopene for the Prevention and Therapy of Prostate Cancer: From Molecular Mechanisms to Clinical Evidence. Int J Mol Sci. 2013;14(7): 14620-14646.

4) Zu K, Rosner BA, Clinton SK, Loda M, Stampfer MJ, Giovannuci E. Dietary Lycopene, Angiogenesis, and Prostate Cancer: A Prospective Study in the Prostate-Specific Antigen Era. JNCI J Natl Cancer Inst (2014) 106 (2).

5) Jacques P, Lyass A, Massaro JM, D’Agastino B.  Relationship of lycopene intake and consumption of tomato products to incident CVD. British Journal of Nutrition (2013), 110, 545-551.

6) Story E, Kopec RE, Schwartz SJ, Harris GK. An Update on the Health Effects of Tomato Lycopene. National Institute of Health Annu Rev Food Sci Technol. 2010; 1: 1-24.

 

Are Super Foods So Super?

 

Are super foods so super?

By: Laura Cipullo, RD, CDE

www.eatingandlivingmoderately.com

Tropical berries such as gogi berries, acai berries, and more have been bombarding the food industry and the media. These products claim almost magical health benefits including a more youthful feeling, lowered cholesterol, and weight loss. But are these products really all their manufacturers claim?

For centuries, the Asian population has included Gogi Berries as part of their diets in hopes of longer lives and to reduce aliments. This is due in large part to their high antioxidant content. Antioxidants may slow the aging process by minimizing damage from free radicals that injure cells and damage. By doing so, antioxidants help reduce the risk of disease and possibly aging. A research article from The Journal of Alternative & Complementary Medicine, found that subjects who drank gogi juice daily for a 15 day period reported significantly higher energy levels, athletic performance, quality of sleep, ease of awakening, ability to focus on activities, mental acuity, calmness, and feelings of health, contentment, and happiness compared to the control group.

More popular than the gogi berry are the acai berries. These berries are also packed with antioxidants and are also good sources of fiber and monounsaturated fats (the good fats!). A pilot study published in a 2011 edition of The Nutrition Journal, found that in patients suffering for metabolic syndrome, supplementation of acai berry led to improved cholesterol as well as better fasting glucose and insulin levels. Other students have found that use of acai berries can reduce inflammation.

So, are you all set to run out and buy a bottle of juice or a box of supplements?

Not so fast.

While it is true that added these foods into your diet may have some health benefits, there is little research to indicate that these benefits are above and beyond those one would find from “non-exotic” products.

All berries are wonderful sources of antioxidants, fiber, and other nutrients. There is little evidence to show that gogi and other berries are better sources—only that they are significantly more expensive. There is no reason to spend $40 when you could simply add local blueberries or raspberries to your diet. Also, eating whole foods rather than swallowing supplements is the recommended way to get your macro and micronutrients.

So, these “super berries”  are just as super as your raspberries and blueberries. To have a lifestyle of health and longevity, fill your plate with fruits and vegetables daily. They don’t have to be from an exotic location, rather it is preferred if they were from your backyard or a local farm!!

 

 

Photo provided by Ambro: <p><a href=”http://www.freedigitalphotos.net/images/view_photog.php?photogid=1499″>Image: Ambro / FreeDigitalPhotos.net</a></p>

References:

http://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/18447631

http://www.liebertonline.com/doi/abs/10.1089/jmf.2010.0150

http://www.nutritionj.com/content/10/1/45

http://articles.cnn.com/2009-03-23/health/acai.berries.scam_1_advanced-wellness-research-acai-weight-loss-claims?_s=PM:HEALTH