Leading scientists, researchers, and nutritionists recently gathered for a day-long confer-ence in London on the nutrient lycopene’s applications in promoting health and preventing disease. Conference presenters highlighted lycopene’s role in protecting the skin, reducing heart disease risk, and supporting prostate health.
Dr. Joseph Levy of Israel’s Ben-Gurion University presented evidence that lycopene and other tomato-derived carotenoids protect against ultraviolet (UV) radiation. Dr. Levy found that supplementing human subjects with a tomato paste containing lycopene helped protect against skin erythema, or sunburn. In another study, Dr. Levy demonstrated that tomato-based products are twice as protective as synthetic lycopene against UV-induced sunburn reactions. According to Dr. Levy, caro-tenoids like lycopene work by stimulating an “antioxidant response element” in the body that protects against carcinogens and other harmful compounds.
Prof. Michael Aviram of the Technion-Israel Institute of Technology presented evidence that lycopene is effective in preventing heart disease. Prof. Aviram believes carotenoids may act as inhibitors of cholesterol synthesis. Six healthy males who took 60 mg of lycopene daily for three months demonstrated significantly re-duced serum cholesterol levels by the study’s end. Prof. Aviram stated that the combination of natural antioxidants found in tomato paste may be superior to individual antioxidants in protecting LDL (low-density lipoprotein) against oxidation and thus reducing cardiovascular disease risk.
Neil Barber of King’s College Hospital in London discussed lycopene’s role in protecting prostate health. In a trial of 42 patients who had been diagnosed with prostate cancer but were not receiving treatment, subjects were given 10 mg of lycopene daily and their prostate-specific antigen (PSA) levels were measured each month. The subjects’ levels of PSA (a marker of prostate cancer progression) fell by 21% after supplementing with lycopene. Barber noted that lycopene administration may allow patients to play a proactive role in fighting prostate cancer.