Well, technically it’s a fruit… but most folks think of it as a vegetable, especially for cooking.
And while there may be several contenders for the title of “best cancer-fighting vegetable”—a number of clinical studies suggest the tomato is at or near the top. It’s a serious threat to abnormal cell growth, aka cancer. Just take a look at what it can do for you. . .
Who’s Winning The War In Your Gut?
Right now there’s a war raging inside your digestive tract.
Billions of “good guy” beneficial bacteria (called probiotics, which literally means “for life”) are defending you against an army of nasty pathogens.
Your total health depends upon the good guys winning the war.
But if you suffer frequent gas, bloating, constipation, and diarrhea, these are warning signs that your good guys are losing the war within. And fiber supplements, laxatives, acid-fighters — even common probiotics — aren’t the solution.
Recent research from the Mayo Clinic and Harvard Medical School suggests these temporary fixes could be putting your gut health at risk.
These new studies indicate these problems are being caused by a lack of enzymes in your digestive tract.
Now, there’s an easy, highly effective fix for these problems.
Lycopene, one of the primary nutrients in tomatoes, has been cited by a boatload of studies as a health food powerhouse.
Even the National Institutes of Health acknowledge it on the National Cancer Institute website. They reference several lab culture and animal studies that indicate lycopene may have chemopreventive effects for cancers of the breast, liver, lung, prostate and skin.
But despite that stunning resumé, lycopene still only gets a ‘wait and see’ nod from mainstream medicine.
I will agree the evidence is not open and shut – it rarely is with foods and nutrients – but I take lycopene because mounting evidence indicates it not only battles cancer, but also addresses a range of other health concerns.
So just what is it and how does it work to stamp out diseases?
Nature’s free radical fighter!
Lycopene is a plant nutrient that provides the deep red color in plants like tomatoes, guava, pink grapefruit and watermelon. It’s classified as an antioxidant.
It falls into the category of carotenoids such as alpha- and beta-carotene. But while your body uses those to make vitamin A, it uses lycopene to provide a different benefit.
One of its protective actions is to maintain the strength, thickness and fluidity of the membranes guarding your cells. These membranes monitor what enters and exits the cells.
Strong membranes allow good nutrients to enter and keep toxins out. This is a vital action in helping to prevent diseases.
Its antioxidant activity protects you from free radical cell damage. Everyone is bombarded by these damaged oxygen molecules every single day thanks to smog, environmental toxins and radiation from the sun.
But antioxidants like lycopene help minimize the harm these cell-damaging molecules can cause.
This is how scientists believe it plays a role in protecting you from diseases such as:
- Heart Disease
- Macular degeneration
To give just one example, a review in the December 2010 issue of Maturitas analyzed 12 studies relating to the effects of lycopene on cholesterol and blood pressure.
They concluded that lycopene consumption is protective against heart disease for two main reasons:
- Investigators found that administering lycopene dosages of at least 25mg daily reduced total cholesterol by 7.55mg/dl. What’s more, LDL (“bad”) cholesterol decreased by 10.35mg/dl.
- All the studies examined in this article found that lycopene consumption had a significant effect on systolic blood pressure, where the average reduction was 5.60 mmHg.
Besides protecting you from all the diseases mentioned above, scientific studies also suggest lycopene may offer first class cancer protection too.
Lycopene gives prostate cancer cells the boot
A number of laboratory and animal studies have been conducted to test the effects of lycopene on prostate cancer cells. According to the National Cancer Institute (NCI), here are some of the findings:
- Laboratory studies have shown:
- Lycopene changed the cell division cycle of prostate cancer cells—which resulted in less cancer cell growth
- Prostate cancer cells treated with lycopene showed lower cholesterol; this decreased cancer cell growth and caused more damage to abnormal cells
- Combining lycopene with cancer drugs may help stop the growth of prostate cancer cells more effectively than drugs used alone. Scientists think lycopene may block cell entry of insulin-like growth factor (IGF), which stunts cancer cell growth.
- In animal studies, lycopene produced remarkable results:
- Mice bred to develop prostate cancer that acts like human cancer were fed either lycopene beads or lycopene-rich tomato paste. Mice eating the lycopene beads had a greater decrease in prostate cancer, suggesting that lycopene supplements might provide more anti-cancer protection than tomato paste.
- When lycopene was combined with a substance found in dried tomatoes (FruHis), prostate cancer growth in rats slowed more than when the animals received either lycopene or FruHis alone.
- In a study of mice injected with human prostate cancer cells, the animals were treated with a certain chemotherapy drug, lycopene, or both at once. Those treated with chemotherapy and lycopene lived longer and had smaller tumors than those that only received chemotherapy!
Now keep in mind, these protective effects were shown when tested against prostate cells alone. But these are not the only cancer cells lycopene can clobber.
An epidemiological study published in the April 2008 American Journal of Clinical Nutrition followed more than 84,000 postmenopausal women for seven years. The authors concluded that consuming lycopene contributed to noticeably reduced incidence of breast cancer.
Researchers found that lycopene from tomatoes also helped reduce pancreatic cancer by 31 percent (nearly a third) in patients who ate the most tomatoes or tomato products compared to those who consumed the least (“Dietary Intake of Lycopene is Associated with Reduced Pancreatic Cancer Risk” – The Journal of Nutrition – March 2005).
Finally, a study published in the October 2000 American Journal of Clinical Nutrition examined the impact of carotenoids on lung cancer. Investigators found lung cancer risk was reduced significantly when patients consumed higher amounts of lycopene in their diet.
So — cancer cells hate it when you eat tomatoes! And no worries if you don’t like their flavor. Lycopene supplements are available wherever supplements are sold.
Lee Euler, Publisher