The levels of carotenoids in your skin and in your blood are a good indicator of your overall health because the levels parallel the levels of plant-derived phytochemicals in general. In fact, Dr. Fuhrman uses a carotenoid skin testing method to non-invasively track his patients’ progress as they adopt a nutritarian diet. Low blood levels of total carotenoids, alpha-carotene, and lycopene have been linked to premature death; of all the carotenoids, very low blood lycopene was the strongest predictor of mortality.2
Lycopene is the signature carotenoid of the tomato. The lycopene in the American diet is 85 percent derived from tomatoes.3 Lycopene is found circulating in the blood and also concentrates in the male reproductive system, hence its protective effects against prostate cancer. 4 In the skin, lycopene helps to prevent UV damage from the sun, protecting against skin cancer. 5 Lycopene is known for its anti-cancer properties, but did you know that lycopene has also been intensively studied for its beneficial cardiovascular effects?
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1. Krinsky NI, Johnson EJ. Carotenoid actions and their relation to health and disease. Mol Aspects Med 2005;26:459-516.
2. Shardell MD, Alley DE, Hicks GE, et al. Low-serum carotenoid concentrations and carotenoid interactions predict mortality in US adults: the Third National Health and Nutrition Examination Survey. Nutr Res 2011;31:178-189.
3. Canene-Adams K, Campbell JK, Zaripheh S, et al. The tomato as a functional food. J Nutr 2005;135:1226-1230.
4. van Breemen RB, Pajkovic N. Multitargeted therapy of cancer by lycopene. Cancer Lett 2008;269:339-351.
5. Rizwan M, Rodriguez-Blanco I, Harbottle A, et al. Tomato paste rich in lycopene protects against cutaneous photodamage in humans in vivo. Br J Dermatol 2010.