It seems that researchers from Ohio State University have established that the super antioxidant lycopene found in tangerine tomato juice is around 8.5 times more biologically available to the body, than the lycopene in red tomato juice.
What is the relevance of all this?
You may have heard of lycopene from national news, it has generated a lot of press interest in recent years because of the vast amounts of research pharmaceutical companies and scientists have been performing on lycopene. The evidence has strongly suggested that lycopene has several health properties including preserving heart health, reducing artery plaques, and particularly reducing the risk of some cancers such as prostate, breast, lung, bladder, ovaries, colon and pancreatic cancer.
It may be that researchers haven’t thought to look at the lycopene availability of tangerine tomatoes, which is sort of understandable considering lycopene is the main pigment that gives tomatoes their vibrant red colour. However, as previous research by Ohio State University that was published in the likes of Molecular Nutrition & Food Research, the International Journal of Food Sciences and Nutrition and the Journal of Agricultural and Food Chemistry has shown, it all comes down to the form of lycopene that is present.
For example, red tomatoes contain 90-95% of their lycopene in the form of all-trans-isomer lycopene, whereas tangerine tomatoes contain the tetra-cis-lycopene variety which gives the two forms of lycopene different properties. It is understood that the lycopene in red tomatoes are surrounded by large crystalline aggregates making them less soluble and therefore harder to breakdown and absorb.
This is a significant discovery because of the margin of difference between the two types of tomato! To put it into context, 48% of the lycopene from the tangerine juice was absorbed compared to just 5% for the red tomato juice, this means that you would have to eat considerably more red tomatoes to get the same quantity of health promoting lycopene. Interestingly, the processing and cooking involved in making tomato ketchup and tomato juices actually improves lycopenes bioavailability meaning these foods are actually better sources of lycopene than tomatoes themselves.
Not a tomato fan full stop?
It’s fair to say that tomatoes aren’t every body’s favourite food, so if you want the potential benefits of lycopene, and want to know you’ll absorb the majority of it, then consider a lycopene supplement.