ASCP Skin Deep

July/August 2013

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wellness A Tomato a Day Boost your natural UV resistance with lycopene by Shelley Burns With summer here, gardeners will soon see their kitchen crops flourishing. This is also the time of year when the sun is at its strongest. The best protection against sun-damaged skin is still sunscreen, but you can provide added protection from the inside out with the fruits of your outdoor labors: tomatoes. We all know the ultraviolet (UV) radiation from the sun can wreak havoc on our skin. UV-A causes the signs of aging, while UV-B is the culprit in sunburn and skin cancer. And plants, even as they harvest their energy from the sun, also need protection from the damage it can cause. Carotenoids, pigments with antioxidant properties, provide this protection by removing oxidized molecules during the process of photosynthesis. They also give many plants their orange, red, or yellow colors. Carotenoids can also help when it comes to human UV protection. Studies have shown the sun-protective effects of lycopene, a carotenoid found in tomatoes. One study1 in particular found that eating five tablespoons of tomato paste daily (providing about 16 milligrams of lycopene) reduced UV-related skin redness and skin damage by about the same amount that an SPF-3 sunscreen would have provided. Clearly, eating tomatoes will not provide anyone with a strong enough "natural sunscreen" to rely on this alone for UV defense, but it can certainly be used as a healthy and delicious way to add a little extra protection. Tomato juice, tomato paste, tomato soup, and other concentrated products are your best bets for adding lycopene to your diet. A cup of tomato soup contains about 25 milligrams of lycopene. On the other hand, a fresh, mediumsized, raw tomato contains only about 4 milligrams, meaning you would have to eat six whole tomatoes daily in order to get the same protective benefits of just a cup of tomato soup. Cooking greatly increases the amount of lycopene in the tomato, though it reduces the amount of vitamin C. An advantage of many Mediterranean dishes is that they combine tomatoes with olive oil; eating healthy fats such as olive oil at the same time as lycopene increases the body's ability to absorb and use the carotenoid. As an added bonus, lycopene has been shown to reduce the risk of heart disease and to protect against some cancers. It may also inhibit the production of collagenase, an enzyme that breaks down collagen and contributes to sagging, wrinkled skin. Other fruits and vegetables high in lycopene are bell peppers, carrots, papaya, pink grapefruit, and watermelon. Add these to your diet, along with tomatoes, to enjoy the benefits of lycopene. Let the harvest begin. SkinDeep_JA_2013.indd 9 Tomato juice, tomato paste, tomato soup, and other concentrated products are your best bets for adding lycopene to your diet. Shelley Burns, a doctor of naturopathic medicine, completed studies at the Canadian College of Naturopathic Medicine and has certification in complementary and integrative medicine from Harvard University. She can be reached at the Executive Health Centre at 416-222-5880 or NOTES 1. . E. Rhodes et al., "Tomato Paste Rich L in Lycopene Protects Against Cutaneous Photodamage," British Journal of Dermatology (January 2011), accessed April 2013, Get connected to your peers @ 9 5/15/13 4:23 PM

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