Cardiovascular diseases and cancer are the main mortality causes in Europe and all developed territories. Lycopene is a plant pigment found, amongst other things, in tomatoes, Europe’s second-most important agricultural crop. Strong supportive data from several epidemiological studies suggest that lycopene may provide important protection against cardiovascular diseases and cancer. However, lycopene content of tomatoes and processed tomato products and lycopene’s beneficial effects have not been sufficiently linked so far.
LYCOCARD is an EU-funded Integrated Project (6th Research Framework Programme) that started in April 2006, is investigating the role of lycopene in reducing the risk of cardiovascular diseases, adopting a “total food chain” approach by addressing each link in a “farm to fork” procedure for future projects to increase the understanding of diet and health.
Specifically, LYCOCARD’s multidisciplinary, intersectorial consortium (15 partners from 6 countries) of scientists, technologists, and patient organisations will clarify the following points: Effects of technological processing on lycopene, interactions between different food ingredients, molecular aspects of absorption and metabolism of lycopene, biological effects of lycopene isomers and lycopene metabolites.
This information will lead to improved nutritional guidelines and healthy new foods based on tomatoes and other dietary sources containing lycopene. These novel dietary guidelines will help consumers to select specific diets, which protect them against disease risk.
LYCOCARD will therefore improve the health of European consumers and reduce the costs of health systems, while also significantly advancing the state-of-the-art.
In addition, increasing the demand for newly developed health-related tomato products will strengthen the position of the European food industry. Research activities in the previous three years, within a good working atmosphere, have had a promising start.
Future articles will describe the results and progress of the project.