Thursday, January 3, 2013

Lycopene: Food Chemical in Tomato Fruit that makes it an Anti-Cancer Diet

If you are looking an anti-cancer diet and a healthy thing to eat and you come across a tomato fruit (Solanium lycopersicum), then you have probably gotten what you truly deserve. The tomato fruit is one food that can be consumed in diverse ways. It can be eaten raw, or can be as an ingredient in many dishes, sauces and drinks. The tomato fruit has medicinal values that are listless. The nutritional value of this food is such that it contains a lot of vitamins and minerals which can be taken daily in large quantities without worrying about weight gain. As a food with anti-cancer properties, tomato consumption has been associated with a decreased risk of breast cancer. Also, the tomato fruit has shown reasonable anti-cancer effect against neck and throat cancer. There is a popular saying that “one tomato a day keeps cancer at bay”. Like every food/fruit in our anti-cancer diet, the tomato fruit contains food chemicals that give it its anti-cancer qualities. The primary food chemical that makes the tomato fruit one of the
healthy things to eat is called Lycopene.

Lycopene is a bright-red carotene and carotenoid pigment found tomatoes and other red coloured fruits and vegetables. The tomato fruit is the richest source of this food chemical called Lycopene. The anti-cancer activity of Lycopene is found to be biologically active when the tomato fruit is being processed into a puree form or when it is cooked with small amounts of cooking oil. Research studies show that eating cooked a Lycopene-infected tomato slows down the growth of-and even kills prostate cancer cells. Although the anti-cancer property of Lycopene is vast and far-reaching, the activities of this food chemical in both preventing and fighting cancer in cells can be divided into 3 roles.

The food chemical in tomato fruit (Lycopene) shows anti-cancer activity in intercepting the intercellular gap junction communication between cancer cells and blood vessels. Cancer cells can remain dormant for years until their growth is triggered through secretions of chemicals which initiate the process of linking cancer cells with endothelial cells which act as healthy gate-keeper cells lining the blood vessels. This linking process allows cancer cells to reach-out and attach to blood supply. The anti-cancer activity, however, of Lycopene is evident in disrupting or intercepting this linking process and prevents cancers from growing. By accumulating in prostate tissues, this food chemical plays the role of an anti-cancer agent by intercepting the linking process. High levels of Lycopene have been found to concentrate in the testes, adrenal glands and prostate which made researchers to believe that Lycopene is vital in fighting colon and prostate cancer.

2.       Inhibiting normal metabolic pathways for cancer formation:
Another anti-cancer activity of Lycopene in fighting breast cancer is by inhibiting certain metabolic processes. The anti-activity of this food chemical against breast cancer and endometrial cancer cells is associated with the inhibition of cell cycle progression at a particular phase (G1 phase).  By blocking this cell cycle progression, Lycopene can prevent the growth and spread of cancer cells.

3.       Modulating the hormonal/immune system:
Another reason that the tomato should be part of our anti-cancer diet is because research has seen that tomato genes seem to work like suicide bombers in cancer cells. Recent research study shows that tomato genes attached to AZT, an anti-retroviral drug, can cause an explosion that will destroy cancer cells in tumour tissues.


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