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Healthy Diet Plans >>  Dietary Supplements >>  Lycopene


Lycopene is a carotenoid with antioxidant and antiproliferative properties and is present in human serum, prostate, colon, lungs, liver, adrenal glands and skin in higher amounts compared to other carotenoids. Fruits and vegetables like tomatoes, watermelon or pink grape fruit get their red color from lycopene. The major source of lycopene is tomato products like tomato sauce, ketchup, tomato juice, spaghetti sauce and pizza sauce. Other sources like water melon and pink grape fruit also provide lycopene in smaller amounts. Lycopene in the body is well absorbed (approximately 2.5 folds more) when consumed in the form of processed tomato products rather than raw tomatoes.

Health and lycopene

  1. Lycopene like other carotenoids may have antioxidant properties and may be suggested as a preventive therapy for age-related macular degeneration, asthma caused by exercise, high cholesterol, atherosclerosis, breast cancer prevention and management of idiopathic male infertility.
  2. Lycopene may also be associated to be helpful in cancer treatment especially cervical cancer, digestive tract cancer, esophageal, pharyngeal, lung cancer, gastric, prostate cancer, colon and rectal cancers.
  3. Lycopene may help to reduce high blood pressure in pregnancy and intrauterine growth retardation in women conceived for the first time.
  4. Lycopene when used in combination with other carotenoids may help reduce sun burns.
All these researches are based on unclear scientific evidences; moreover tomato intake was being used as the base for these researches and not lycopene supplements. As tomatoes intake can also provide other nutrients that can be beneficial in these conditions like folate, potassium and vitamin-C it is difficult to draw conclusion and isolate lycopene alone for these beneficial effects.

Side effects and lycopene

  1. Lycopene supplements are not being studied for its safety and effectiveness thoroughly. No toxic effects or side effects are been reported with ingestion of tomatoes, tomato based products or lycopene supplement.
  2. Tomatoes and tomato based products being acidic may irritate stomach ulcers if taken in large amounts.
  3. However tomato consumption is believed to be safe, lycopene supplements are not recommended in pregnancy, lactation or for children as scientific research in these conditions are lacking. Increased lycopene concentrations have been found in plasma and breast milk of lactating mothers who consumed tomatoes.
  4. Lycopene may prevent platelet aggregation and thrombosis and may increase the risk of bleeding if taken with drugs that increase the risk of bleeding.
Lycopene can also interact with some drugs, herbal or dietary supplements. Thus it is advisable to use lycopene supplement in recommended levels under the guidance of a health care professional.
Submitted on January 16, 2014