However you pronounce it, tomatoes are a “super food” loaded with healthful benefits. Packed with lycopene, a carotenoid, tomatoes can help protect against the oxidative damage caused by free radicals which contribute to chronic disease and aging. A diet of tomatoes is thought to help prevent the occurrence of cancer, as well. Tomato soup anyone?
Tomatoes contain all four major carotenoids: alpha- and beta-carotene, lutein,
and lycopene, according to Elaine Magee, MPH, RD
. She says these carotenoids offer individual benefits, but “also have synergy as a group (that is, they interact to provide health benefits).” Lycopene, in particular has the highest antioxidant activity of all the carotenoids, she notes.
WHAT ARE CAROTENOIDS?
Carotenoids, which occur in nature, are either derived from botanical material or produced by fermentation or chemical synthesis. They are used as coloring components in foods and feeds, occasionally in cosmetic products, and as physiologically active ingredients in nutritional supplements, explains says
BCC research analyst Ulrich Marz.
“Estimates place the number of carotenoids at a few hundred, but only 10 are commercially marketed: annatto, astaxanthin, beta-carotene, beta-apo-8-carotenal and its ester, canthaxanthin, lutein and its isomer zeaxanthin, capsanthin/paprika, and lycopene,” Marz says.
He explains that carotenoids are chemical compounds produced by nature and “as such have a
physiological importance to the plants that produce them.” However, originally all carotenoids were first used and commercialized as colors and not because of their physiological functions. Over the past decades, a better understanding of carotenoids’ functions in living organisms developed, leading to their use as a nutritional additive with a more or less strong health claim, says Marz.
Currently, carotenoids mostly are used as coloring components in foods and feeds, occasionally in cosmetic products, and as physiologically active ingredients in nutritional supplements.
WHAT IS LYCOPENE?
According to Marz, lycopene is the carotenoid that gives tomatoes and some other fruits and vegetables their red color and protection from UV radiation and environmental pollution. But it’s the carotenoid’s ability to ward off cancer that may be its greatest benefit.
“The clinical evidence for lycopene is solid and the number of potential customers is increasing, an indication also related to the aging of consumers. The incidence of prostate cancer is incidence is higher in the U.S. and Europe and lower in Southeast Asia, but overall, the frequency of prostate cancer is rising,” he explains. “The clinical evidence of the effects of carotenoids was always strong when used as antioxidants and for strengthening the immune system, to prevent prostate cancer, especially with the use of lycopene.”
MARKET OUTLOOK FOR LYCOPENE
As an agent to prevent prostate cancer, lycopene is well-established, Marz notes
, adding that the market is growing robustly in industrialized countries and emerging countries. As sales trends over past years shows, volume consumption is increasing at a robust CAGR of 5% and it is expected that such a trend will continue through 2019, he adds.
Finally, Marz says that lycopene obtained permission from the European Commission (EC) to be used as a food additive and coloring agent years ago, but hopes that such approval would boost the market segment have yet to materialize. However, consumption in the traditional supplement segment has increased. However, prices have decreased now that many Asian suppliers offer lycopene extracts from tomatoes at acceptable qualities.
The global carotenoid market value, which totaled $1.5 billion in 2014, is expected to reach nearly $1.8 billion in 2019, reflecting a five-year compound annual growth rate (CAGR) of 3.9%.