New research provides evidence that levels of lycopene are maintained or even increased when tomatoes are processed into soups, sauces and ketchup. Lycopene is the ingredient in tomatoes that makes them red and is also the ingredient tied to health benefits. A recent article in the Spring 2001 edition of the Journal of Medicinal Food discusses evidence that the antioxidant lycopene in tomatoes retains or increases its potency during processing and storage. "Lycopene Content of Tomato Products: Its Stability, Bioavailability and In Vivo Antioxidant Properties" was written by nutrition researchers Venket Rao, Ph.D., Anita Agarwal, Honglei Shen and Sanjiv Agarwal, Ph.D. Recent research from across the world has suggested that lycopene may help fight prostate and other forms of cancer, heart disease and other diseases. Previous research has indicated that processing may make lycopene more available to the body by extracting it from the tomato cell walls. In addition, the heating process seems to change the chemical structure of lycopene and make it more bioavailable. "Dr. Rao and the rest of this team continue to break new ground in studying the bioavailability of lycopene," said Dr. David Yeung, Ph.D., director, corporate nutrition, H.J. Heinz Company. "This new study is among the first to show that lycopene maintains its antioxidant properties during the actual processing and continues to maintain it during storage of up to 12 months."