Lycopene is a naturally occurring antioxidant that is responsible for the red color of fruits such as tomatoes, guava, rosehip, watermelon, and pink grapefruit. Numerous scientific studies have linked lycopene intake with the rate of occurrence of prostate cancer—the second most commonly diagnosed cancer in American men. This link is of even more significance for African-American men, who, unfortunately, have the highest prostate cancer rate of any group in the world.
A landmark epidemiological study, conducted by the Harvard School of Public Health (Giovannucci E, et al. 1995) monitored the dietary habits of 48,000 men over a period of six years. The authors found that of the 46 fruits and vegetables evaluated it was only the tomato-based foods that were beneficial in lowering the risk of prostate cancer, and lycopene was implicated as the active ingredient. Those men who ate ten or more servings of tomato-based products per week had a 34 percent lower risk of contracting prostate cancer.
Men may have prostate cancer for many years before it becomes aggressive and life-threatening. The above Harvard study found that the beneficial effects of tomato/lycopene were even more apparent when men who had late-stage cancers were looked at in isolation from the overall group.
A team of researchers from the US National Cancer Institute in Bethesda, Maryland, published a study in 2002 that was designed to test conclusively if it was indeed lycopene that provided the prostate protection implied by the various epidemiological studies that had previously been conducted (Am J Epidemiol 2002;155:1023-1032). About half of the 437 men studied had prostate cancer. A correlation was found between blood serum lycopene level and cancer: the men with the highest levels had a significantly reduced risk of prostate cancer compared to those with the lowest lycopene levels.
Lycopene owes its prostate cancer-fighting ability to two separate factors. First, it is a powerful antioxidant. This means that it is able to effectively neutralize free radicals that are constantly introduced into our bodies via the food we eat and the air we breathe. The cellular damage caused by these unstable molecules is one of the causes of cancer. Secondly, lycopene is readily absorbed and stored in several discrete places, two of which are the prostate gland and testes, which makes lycopene a particularly useful antioxidant for men.
Lycopene level has also been correlated with male fertility. Several preliminary studies, including that of Dr. Armand Zini of McGill University, Montreal, have shown that men with lower semen lycopene levels have poorer quality sperm. Furthermore, sperm function improves after lycopene supplementation. This phenomenon has, again, been attributed to lycopene’s antioxidative ability.
The principal cause of death for men, heart disease, has also been linked to cellular damage caused by free radicals. Thus, for several reasons, the health of all men can be enhanced by a regular intake of lycopene-rich foods or a good quality dietary supplement like Lyc-O-Mato.