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Lycopene As You Like It

With Father’s Day (June 18th) and Men’s Health Week (12th – 18th) around the corner, what better way to dote on dear old dad than to help him lower his prostate cancer risk with foods rich in lycopene?

Until now, tomatoes have hogged most of the lycopene limelight, despite the findings about other sources (such as guava). Tomatoes’ lock on the mental link with lycopene is understandable, given that most clinical trials demonstrating lycopene’s effects have used tomato products–so much so that the FDA’s limited lycopene health claimapplies only to such products. Now new studies may challenge that health claim hegemony.

In one study, Indian researchers gave 8 mg of pure lycopene to 40 men with high-grade precursors to prostate cancer patients. After one year, the subjects’ blood levels of a marker for prostate cancer dropped by half (while levels in the control group increased by a quarter). This bolsters the case that lycopene may have chemoprotective benefits–whether it comes from a tube of tomato paste or one of the many other delicious sources.

Such as? Start your day with a luscious guava smoothie. Do lunch with our Garden Vegetable Gazpacho. Lower your disease risk while losing weight by using red grapefruit in this fresh, baby spinach salad. For dessert? Make whoopee with watermelon–a main ingredient in Pineapple Passion.

With over 200,000 new cases of prostate cancer diagnosed in the U.S. every year–making it the most common form of cancer among men (excluding skin cancers)–don’t hang all your hopes on lycopene.

Published June 1, 2006

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