(Medicalnewstoday) – New research finds that iron halves the absorption of lycopene. Lycopene is a carotenoid full of antioxidants that is present in tomatoes.
Tomatoes offer a rich variety of health benefits.
These range from protecting against cancer and hypertension to maintaining the health of our heart, skin, and eyes.
Regarding cancer, previous studies have found a link between lycopene — which is a plant compound present in tomatoes — and a lower risk of prostate cancer, colon cancer, and lung cancer, among others.
Although consuming lycopene-rich foods is good for health, other nutrients that we combine them with may help or hinder their cancer fighting properties.
For instance, a small new study now suggests that consuming foods or supplements rich in iron may halve the benefits of lycopene.
Rachel Kopec, an assistant professor of human nutrition at Ohio State University in Columbus, was the lead author of the new study. The findings appear in the journal Molecular Nutrition & Food Research.
Why we may only get half the lycopene
Kopec and colleagues set out to examine the “formation and absorption of lycopene metabolites” in seven males who consumed test meals, both with and without iron. The test meals consisted of a shake with tomato extract.
The participants drank the shake either with ferrous sulfate as an iron supplement or without. The researchers analyzed the participants’ blood and digestive fluids.
“When people had iron with their meal, we saw almost a twofold drop in lycopene uptake over time,” explains Kopec.
This could have potential implications every time a person is consuming something rich in lycopene and iron — say a Bolognese sauce, or an iron fortified cereal with a side of tomato juice. You’re probably only getting half as much lycopene from this as you would without the iron.”
“Nutrition can play an important role in disease prevention, but it’s important for us to gather the details about precisely how what we eat is contributing to our health so that we can give people reliable, science based recommendations,” emphasizes the researcher.