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Lycopene, antioxidants

The “Red” Power of Tomatoes

 By Dr. Gifford Jones

Thank God I don’t have to eat broccoli! Thank God that I love tomatoes. Red tomatoes contain lycopene, a natural pigment and powerful antioxidant. And recent research indicates that loving tomatoes fights prostate cancer and other malignancies.

The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention report that during 2004 over 340,000 North American males will be diagnosed with prostate cancer. 45,000 will die from it.

Dr. Omer Kucuk, Professor of Medicine and Oncology at Wayne State University of Michigan, is an authority on the “Red power” of tomatoes. He studied 26 patients who were scheduled to undergo surgery for cancer of the prostate.

Some of these patients were prescribed a lycopene supplement, 15 milligrams (mg) twice daily, (the equivalent of three large tomatoes) prior to the operation. The others were given a placebo.

Pathological examination of prostate tissue following surgery verified the “Red Power” of tomatoes. Those who took lycopene supplements had smaller tumours. The malignancy was also more frequently confined to the prostate gland. Moreover, there were signs that the cancer was less malignant.

Lycopene supplements resulted in another significant finding. The blood level of PSA (prostate specific antigen), a test used to diagnose prostate cancer, and to evaluate the effects of treatment was lower.

Another researher,Dr. Fredrick Khachik, at the University of Maryland, Baltimore, gave 30 mg of lycopene daily to patients. He then analyzed samples of prostate tissue by HPLC (high performance liquid chromatography). This proved that lycopene was absorbed by prostatic tissue.

During a recent visit to Boston I talked with several researchers at The Harvard Medical School. For six years they’ve studied 48,000 male health professionals. The purpose to determine if there was any correlation between 46 fruits and vegetables and the risk of developing cancer of the prostate. They concluded that tomatoes and tomato based products decreased the likelihood of this malignancy.

Another Harvard project, “The Physicians Health Study” found a 41 per cent reduction in the risk of prostate cancer among those with high levels of lycopene.

It concluded that lycopene was the only compound that showed a significant and consistent effect in reducing the risk of this cancer.

If you enjoy pizza there was good news. Dr. Edward Giovannucci at Harvard Medical School followed patients who had consumed tomatoes, tomato sauce or pizza more than twice a week. He reports that these people had a 21 to 34 per cent less risk of prostate cancer than those who rarely ate these foods.

Several epidemiological studies have also linked lycopene to reductions in breast, cervix, bladder, lung and stomach cancers.

Having a high blood level of lycopene benefits both sexes. Researchers at the University of Illinois report that women with the highest levels of lycopene had five times lesser chance of developing precancerous changes of the cervix.

But how does red power work? To provide energy there is always an end product. For instance, when wood burns we’re left with ashes. Similarly to provide energy are body burns oxygen and in the process “free radicals” are produced which are believed to be a cause of aging and cancer. Lycopene is a powerful antioxidant that removes these free radicals.

How much lycopene do we need? Authorities believe that 5 to 10 milligrams a day are required to maintain good health. We also know that 85 to 90 per cent of most people’s intake comes from tomatoes. And since lycopene is not manufactured by the body it must be obtained from tomatoes and other food sources.

Large amounts of lycopene are present in tomato juice, tomato soup, tomato paste, pink grapefruit, watermelon and seafood sauce. It’s also present in ketchup, but remember ketchup is also very high in sugar.

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Dr. Gifford Jones  Bio
Dr. Gifford Jones Most recent columns

W. Gifford-Jones M.D is the pen name of Dr. Ken Walker graduate of The Harvard Medical School. He’s been a ship’s surgeon, hotel physician and family doctor and later trained in surgery at McGill in Montreal, University of Rochester N.Y. and Harvard. His medical column is published by 60 Canadian newspapers and several in the U.S. He is the author of seven books. Dr. Walker has a medical practice in Toronto. His Web site is: http://www.mydoctor.ca/gifford-jones



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