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Lycopene is a naturally occurring carotenoid that gives fruits and vegetables a red colour, and can not be converted to vitamin A (retinol) as beta-carotene. Lycopene is found in particularly high amounts in tomatoes and tomato products. In North America, 85% of dietary lycopene comes from tomato products such as tomato juice or paste. One cup (240 mL) of tomato juice provides about 23 mg of lycopene. Processing raw tomatoes, using heat and/or crushing (in the making of tomato juice, tomato paste or ketchup, for example) actually changes the chemical structure of lycopene which increases absorption and bioavailability, i.e. processing tomatoes eases the uptake of lycopene which increases its beneficial effects.

Lycopene has several benefits that are scientifically substantiated. It reduces the risk for certain cancers, it modulates the immune system and is involved in many inflammatory processes, prevents sun-burn, and lycopene is a powerful antioxidant. As a consequence of these characteristics, lycopene might be effective in reducing the risk for cardiovascular diseases and improve atherosclerosis.

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