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Lycopene might help fight cancer

Q. I've heard that lutein is good for preventing prostate cancer. As long as I'm serving this to the family, I'd like to know if it does anything for the rest of us.

A. It's lycopene that may help reduce risk of prostate cancer. Lycopene is the pigment that gives tomatoes, pink grapefruit, watermelon and guava their red color. Researchers have found a 20 percent reduced risk for individuals who regularly consume cooked tomato products. It may be the lycopene, or some other unknown chemical that occurs with the lycopene. Anyway, the current recommendations are to eat tomato products twice a week.

Now, just because lutein isn't the nutrient you thought it was, that is no reason to stop serving foods that are rich in this nutrient. Lutein is a carotenoid similar to beta carotene (in carrots) and it may help lower your risk for heart disease, cancer, cataracts and age-related macular degeneration. It is improves visual function also.

Lutein is present throughout the body, but is concentrated in the retina. It is not made by the body, so it comes entirely from the diet. Good sources include: tomatoes, beets, green peas, romaine lettuce, spinach, oranges, leeks, green beans, artichokes, tangerines, broccoli and green peppers.

Sue Kosharek, of Rochester, is a registered dietitian in private practice. Questions should be sent to the Food section, Post-Bulletin, 18 First Ave. S.E., Rochester, MN 55904 or call City Line, 252-1111, category 5100, and leave your question. You also may e-mail questions to lifestyle@postbulletin.com.

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