There is an undoubted positive effect of a number of functional foods, rich in bioactive substances, such as lycopene, β-carotene and other phytochemicals, on cancer prevention. Some scientific reports on the effect of lycopene and β-carotene in natural food products and those of synthetic origin in cancer prevention are inconsistent. Researchers have been considering the issue of whether purified phytochemicals are with the same health benefits as phytochemicals, contained in whole foods. Currently, it is considered that dietary supplements do not have the same health benefits as a diet, abundant in fruits and vegetables, because taken alone, clinically tested individual antioxidants do not appear to have uniform preventive effects.
This review is based on the growing interest in the role of carotenoids, specifically lycopene and beta-carotene, in cancer prevention and treatment, combined with the assumption that micronutrients of synthetic origin cannot replace the benefits of a diet, rich in natural plant products.
It has been demonstrated that a synthetic form of β-carotene has partial pro-oxidant effect, while the natural one has an antioxidant effect. For this reason, the goal of many breeding programs in the field of vegetable crops is to create varieties with high biological value, characterized by high content of lycopene, β-carotene, ascorbic acid and other natural compounds with antioxidant activity. They are suitable initial material for the production of natural products with a high content of the bioactive compounds, beneficial in the prevention of chronic diseases. Increased antioxidant intake may be achieved by the consumption of more antioxidant-rich foods, rather than by the use of supplements. In conclusion, we support the evidence suggesting that antioxidant micronutrients are best acquired through natural plant food consumption, rather than food supplements.
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