Tomatoes are amazing. They give us ketchup, soup and pasta sauce. However, these things are not their only contributions to the world. A team of scientists has traced the activity of the cancer-fighting tomato component.
Years of research in University of Illinois scientist John Erdman’s laboratory have demonstrated that lycopene, the bioactive red pigment found in tomatoes, reduces growth of prostate tumors in a variety of animal models. Until now, though, he did not have a way to trace lycopene’s metabolism in the human body.
The team found that plant biofactories can incorporate heavier carbon atoms into cancer-fighting phytochemicals, which can be used to trace their movement in the human body. This process allowed the researchers to study human metabolism of lycopene.
They showed that when consumed, lycopene undergoes a change in its chemical structure that potentially influences health.
The results provide novel information about absorption efficiency and how quickly lycopene is lost from the body. Researchers determined its half-life in the body and now understand that the structural changes occur after the lycopene is absorbed, John W. Erdman Jr. explained.
In the future, these new techniques could help researchers to better understand how lycopene reduces prostate cancer risk and severity. They will be able to develop evidence-based dietary recommendations for prostate cancer prevention, Erdman said.
The study appears in American Journal of Clinical Nutrition.