More Lycopene?

Vendors of cooked tomato products are quick to point out that such products may contain “more lycopene” than raw tomatoes, or at least that it may be more bioavailable.  Obviously, as our moms told us, cooking fruits and vegetables is a tradeoff, as vitamins are damaged and minerals are extracted, and generally, a losing proposition, as I wrote in my Medium article on Eating for Immune function, with a lot of Vitamin C, B vitamins, and other nutrients being destroyed.

However, and this is one of the very rare exceptions, we have an apparent conundrum with cooked tomatoes.  Research from credible organizations like Cornell reports that trans-lycopene, cis-lycopene, and total antioxidants increased in their cooking experiment.  I am still waiting for the full text, and, being 18 years later, it may never arrive.  Besides, there was no attempt by the authors to explain a mechanism by which more lycopene is formed.  I was not able to find any expanation of such a mechanism by searching Google, because there is no such mechanism.

You can see the roots of the deception in that the actual published (?) paper’s abstract talks about the amount of lycopene properly, as a ratio, a concentration, so to speak, per gram of tomato (remaining) :

Whereas the often parroted press release from Cornell conveniently (?) OMITS the “per gram”, and lists the percentages as absolute increases, as in “However, the research revealed that the beneficial trans-lycopene content of the cooked tomatoes increased by 54, 171 and 164 percent, respectively.” – You can see that they are purposely misstating the concentration difference between roughly 2 mg/g (parts per  million, basically), and say 3.11 mg/ per gram of tomato,  and 3 and a bit is indeed about 54% more than 2.  But there was no visit by the Lycopene Fairy, there was NOT more lycopene, there was more lycopene per gram of cooked tomato, which was losing water, presumably, as it was being cooked.

So, the actual finding is that, as you drive off water with heat, the non-water substances become more concentrated….Amazing!  Stop the presses!  Your tax dollars at work – to deceive you.


Some have questioned the industry influences on Cornell University, and even T. Colin Campbell has noted issues.  This research was funded by the US Department of Agriculture (USDA), a marketing organization famous for such gems as the Four Food Groups, and in NO WAY a public health organization.  The USDA’s mission has 7 points, only one of which pretends to be about health.

Other research shows degradation of lycopene of 50% after an hour of low simmering (100 C), and more at higher temperatures.   Baking at 350 F (177 C), probably the most popular lasagna baking temperature, for an hour destroyed a third.

Could it be that the Cornell research was fabricated, that the choice of 2, 15, and 30 minutes of cooking time was in full knowledge of the truth?

Not coincidentally, if you ask Google recipe how long to simmer tomato sauce, you get a list of “slow simmered”, and MULTI-DAY sauce recipes.  The answer Google gives is :

Is it possible that the brilliant minds at the Ivy Leage institution of Cornell have never made tomato sauce?  Or maybe, don’t know how to use Google?  Or maybe that they were hired to produce a finding, and were willing to contort a study to give apparent support to that finding?

This summary contains a valuable bibliography, including a reminder that research suggests that a minimum of 5 to 10 g of fat in a meal is required for the absorption of carotenoids.  A data table shows the concentrations of lycopene per 100 grams of various food products, and, indeed the processed (cooked) tomato products have the highest values for lycopene, but, remember, substantial damage to Vitamin C and B-vitamins.

It’s worth noting, and my suggestion, that guava,  watermelon, raw tomatoes, and even papaya, are great sources of lycopene, naturally, as part of their intact nutritional package.  It is worth remembering that nutrition is a Goldilocks issue, and the highest source of X may not be the best source of X, “just right” trumps “more”.  in addition, water can be considered a nutrient, given that our human bodies are made of 70+% of it.

Further, if you are a person who represents a faith in a Creator, do you understand why we get berries, watermelon, and tomatoes in the summer?  Isn’t that an amazing coincidence?  Think about it, and act accordingly.



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40 years in pursuit of health and dynamic wellness, now a thriving 50-something after 25+ years veg*n.  On the Intermittent Fasting train in a big way.

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