Ly­copene

To­mayto or tom­ahto? While the ar­gu­ment may never end, we do know that toma­toes are red, and the rea­son why—ly­copene—holds a key to great health

Amazing Wellness - - CONTENTS - By Vera Tweed

Found in toma­toes and other red fruits, ly­copene of­fers some amaz­ing health ben­e­fits.

In the United States, toma­toes are our rich­est source of ly­copene, a nu­tri­ent that’s also found in water­mel­ons, pink grape­fruit, and other crim­son­hued fruits and veg­gies that gives them their red color. When toma­toes are cooked with a touch of fat, their ly­copene be­comes more bioavail­able, which is why tomato sauce can be a health food— although too much fat and sugar, as well as the chem­i­cal food ad­di­tives found in many pizza and pasta sauces, tends to muddy the health ben­e­fits.

Ly­copene has been stud­ied for more than 75 years, and is the sub­ject of sev­eral thousand sci­en­tific ar­ti­cles pub­lished in peer-re­viewed jour­nals. When it’s con­cen­trated in sup­ple­ment form, it can have far-reach­ing ef­fects on the way the body works by im­prov­ing your abil­ity to with­stand en­vi­ron­men­tal on­slaughts from the sun, pol­lu­tion, and even that ir­ri­tat­ing glare from screens on elec­tronic de­vices.

FREE RAD­I­CAL OVER­LOAD— WE ALL HAVE IT

“Most dam­age that hap­pens to the hu­man body is from free rad­i­cals,” says Mark Meno­las­cino, MD, an in­te­gra­tive physi­cian in Jack­son Hole, Wyo. Free rad­i­cals are dam­aged mol­e­cules, a nor­mal by-prod­uct of breath­ing, eat­ing, drink­ing, and other pro­cesses that are part of ev­ery­day life. Our bod­ies are de­signed to deal with them, but only up to a point. When we’re ex­posed to sun­light, pol­lu­tion, cig­a­rette smoke, and other tox­ins, ex­cess free rad­i­cals can over­whelm the body and dam­age healthy cells, which leads to dis­ease and ac­cel­er­ates the ag­ing process.

Be­cause free rad­i­cals are pro­duced by oxy­gen re­ac­tions, their ac­tion is de­scribed as “ox­i­da­tion.” This dam­ag­ing process, in turn, trig­gers or fu­els in­flam­ma­tion. An­tiox­i­dants such as vi­ta­mins C and E and ly­copene coun­ter­act free rad­i­cals, and by do­ing so help to quell in­flam­ma­tion.

“The root of all evil in medicine is in­flam­ma­tion,” says Meno­las­cino. “Free rad­i­calin­duced dam­age driv­ing in­flam­ma­tion is be­hind all of these pro­cesses that we know of as dis­ease and ag­ing.” Man­i­fes­ta­tions in­clude all man­ner of ills, in­clud­ing Alzheimer’s dis­ease, heart dis­ease, di­a­betes, skin con­di­tions, and vi­sion prob­lems. Stop­ping or re­duc­ing the un­der­ly­ing process is what Meno­las­cino calls to­day’s “Holy Grail in medicine.”

LY­COPENE’S AN­TIOX­I­DANT EDGE

“Ly­copene is the best at mop­ping up those free rad­i­cals, so it pro­tects against sun dam­age for the skin, for the eye, and in­flam­ma­tory dam­age for the heart,” says Meno­las­cino. “It has the abil­ity to work in mul­ti­ple ar­eas by be­com­ing that free rad­i­cal scav­enger.”

Ly­copene is one of the carotenoids, a class of ben­e­fi­cial nu­tri­ents that gives plants their pig­ments. Some of the bet­ter-known carotenoids are beta carotene, a pre­cur­sor to vi­ta­min A found in many mul­ti­vi­ta­mins, and two key nu­tri­ents for eye health: lutein

How did you know... Raw toma­toes are a good source of ly­copene, but cooking them makes this nu­tri­ent more bioavail­able.

and zeax­an­thin. But ly­copene has some spe­cial properties.

“It acts in a syn­er­gis­tic way with other carotenoids that are in your other foods, so it’s like a gen­eral com­man­der of all the other an­tiox­i­dants, and helps them work at a bet­ter level, keeps them more or­ga­nized, and they have more po­tency,” says Meno­las­cino.

A SPE­CIAL FORM OF LY­COPENE

Most of the re­search on ly­copene sup­ple­ments has been done with a spe­cific patented ex­tract called Lyc-O-Mato. It’s found in many sup­ple­ments, both as a sin­gle in­gre­di­ent and in for­mu­las, and is usu­ally listed in the Sup­ple­ment Facts or in a de­scrip­tion of the prod­uct.

Lyc-O-Mato is de­rived from toma­toes bred to have nat­u­rally high lev­els of ly­copene. They aren’t ge­net­i­cally mod­i­fied, but were de­vel­oped us­ing age-old farm­ing meth­ods to be es­pe­cially rich in the nu­tri­ent. Soils in which these toma­toes are grown are tested for con­tam­i­nants; the toma­toes them­selves are picked only when they’re ripe; and they’re pro­cessed with­out chem­i­cals to pro­duce con­sis­tent, verified lev­els of nat­u­ral ly­copene.

Meno­las­cino de­scribes it as a “seed-to-sup­ple­ment” process de­signed to pro­duce a high-qual­ity in­gre­di­ent that’s eas­ily ab­sorbed and uti­lized by the body.

HOW TO TAKE IT

Based on amounts tested in stud­ies, Meno­las­cino rec­om­mends get­ting 15 mg of ly­copene, two to four times daily. Look for the Lyc-O-Mato form on la­bels. Start with the twice-daily dose and see how you feel. If you have a chronic in­flam­ma­tory condition such as arthri­tis, try the higher dose. There is no known dan­ger of tox­i­c­ity with high doses, but there is a sat­u­ra­tion point, be­yond which ben­e­fits won’t in­crease.

As part of a daily sup­ple­ment reg­i­men, Meno­las­cino con­sid­ers ly­copene to be es­sen­tial, along with a mul­ti­vi­ta­min, pro­bi­otics, vi­ta­min D, and fish oil.

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