Diets rich in lycopene, the primary pigment in tomatoes, can reduce a man's risk of developing prostate cancer, data suggest. Now Agriculture Department scientists have found that watermelon is a far better source of the so-called carotenoid than tomatoes are and at least as well absorbed by the body.
New chemical analyses by USDA scientists show that the red part of the watermelon can have about 40 percent more lycopene than an equivalent weight of uncooked tomatoes has. More importantly, a second study finds, raw watermelon's lycopene is available to the body, whereas little of a tomato's lycopene is absorbed unless it's first cooked.
Nutritionists Beverly A. Clevidence and Alison J. Edwards of USDA's Agricultural Research Service laboratory in Beltsville, Md., recruited 23 healthy men and women for three separate 3-week trial sessions. In each phase, the scientists administered all the food that the volunteers ate.
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