Lycopene, cardiovascular disease and cancer
Researchers from the School of Biomolecular Sciences are analysing the health benefits of the carotenoid pigment, Lycopene
Found in high concentration in many fruit and vegetables, Lycopene is a ‘carotenoid’ or yellow/red pigment. While watermelon, papaya, rosehip and pink grapefruit are all Lycopene-rich, it is tomatoes, Europe’s second-most important crop, that is of most interest to LJMU researchers.That's because cooked tomatoes (and their by-products) account for 90% of the Lycopene in the average European diet.
The Lycocard project is an five year study that began in April 2006. It is funded by the EU as part of the Sixth Framework Programme. Researchers from five European countries - Germany, France, Hungary, Spain, Italy and the UK - are working collaboratively to clarify the health advantages of Lycopene.
Evidence already compiled by experts at LJMU and their European counterparts suggests that Lycopene may provide crucial protection against certain cancers and cardiovascular disease. By adopting a ‘total food chain’, the researchers hope to answer the following fundamental questions: what is the actual Lycopene content of a tomato, and will proving Lycopene's beneficial effects be enough to influence the food industry?
The anticipated development of new healthy foodstuffs derived from cooked tomatoes will form only part of the Lycocard project. The study will also analyse the various effects Lycopene has on our bodies, such as the way it interacts with the body’s bioactive compounds, the way it is absorbed, and its contribution to our metabolism.
LJMU’s Nutraceutical Research Group is the UK's research team and they are looking at two key areas:
how oxidants in our bodies break-down and potentially weaken Lycopene’s health giving properties. Results from this research could help determine if smokers have lower concentrations of plasma Lycopene due to this oxidation process. A reduction in antioxidants has been previously noted as a contributory factor to the hardening of arteries.
- establishing the health gains (or losses) encountered by the consumption of processed tomato products. This aspect of the research will use volunteers in Italy, France and the UK.
The initial results of the oxidation studies were presented at the Annual General Meeting in Murcia, Spain in July 2007.
More information: http://www.lycocard.com/
See also the NRG website: www.ljmu.ac.uk/nrg/