Lycopene is a type of organic pigment called a carotenoid. It is related to beta-carotene and gives some vegetables and fruits (e.g., tomatoes) a red color.
Lycopene is a powerful antioxidant that might help protect cells from damage. It's found in tomato, watermelon, red orange, pink grapefruit, apricot, rose hip, and guava.
Lycopene is used for high blood pressure, high cholesterol, cancer, and many other conditions, but there is no good scientific evidence to support most of these uses.
Lycopene is a powerful antioxidant with many health benefits, including sun protection, improved heart health and a lower risk of certain types of cancer.
Though it can be found as a supplement, it may be most effective when consumed from lycopene-rich foods like tomatoes and other red or pink fruits.
Lycopene, a naturally occurring red carotenoid pigment found in tomatoes, pink grapefruit, watermelon, papaya, guava, and other fruits, has been extensively studied for more than 70 years, with more than 2000 articles published in peer-reviewed journals and 4000 other publications (scientific and otherwise) written on the subject. Most of these articles have focused on lycopene derived from tomatoes.
One of the biggest benefits of lycopene is that it is an antioxidant and protects the body of damage from free radical stress, which can hurt DNA and other cell structures.
The antioxidant properties help balance free radical activity in the body and in doing so, may offer protection against certain diseases, keep bones strong and healthy, and help eyesight by helping delay or prevent cataracts, macular degeneration, and other age-related eye disorders.
Lycopene and Cancer
While more research is needed, previous studies have made a connection between lycopene and cancer prevention. Because of its antioxidant profile, lycopene may stop cancer growth and build up enzymes in the body that help break down cancer-causing agents.
While there’s been no recorded proof that lycopene can treat cancer, it has been linked to one of the factors that can help reduce cancer risk, specifically breast, lung, and prostate cancers.
It’s important to also note that cancer prevention has been shown to increase with all fruit and vegetable consumption—not just ones with lycopene.
Research published in The American Journal of Clinical Nutrition found that in addition to its antioxidant properties, lycopene may have the ability to reduce LDL (bad) cholesterol while increasing HDL (good) cholesterol levels.1
There may also be a connection to those who have higher amounts of lycopene in their tissues and a lower risk of heart attack, blocked or clogged arteries, lower blood pressure, and other cardiovascular diseases.
Other Health Benefits
While cancer prevention and reducing the risk of cardiovascular disease are among two of the largest potential benefits of lycopene, the carotenoid may have additional benefits should someone have a high-lycopene diet.
A study published in the journal Neurology found that lycopene may help prevent strokes, particularly strokes caused by blood clots.2 Researchers think this is due to the fact that lycopene improves cholesterol levels in addition to reducing inflammation, two factors that can contribute to a stroke.
Lycopene along with other carotenoids may also protect against UV damage caused by the sun. It's important to note, however, that lycopene does not (and should not) substitute as a replacement for SPF.
Lycopene powder has antioxidant activity in the body and is involved in several chemical reactions on a cellular level. Because of this, researchers suspect that lycopene may be helpful in a number of health conditions, including treating asthma, preventing and treating cancer, decreasing heart disease, and improving macular degeneration.
Asthma: In one small study, participants who had received 30 mg per day of lycopene for one week had improved exercise-induced asthma.
Cancer: Various studies have found an association between lycopene consumption and a reduced risk of lung, gastric, and breast cancers.
Cardiovascular disease: One review of studies found that higher lycopene consumption was associated with a decreased risk of coronary heart disease and stroke.
Macular degeneration: Macular degeneration is a type of central vision loss that can occur as someone ages. In a limited population, levels of carotenoids in the body have been found to have an inverse relationship with the likelihood of developing age-related macular degeneration.
Lycopene is the pigment principally responsible for the characteristic deep-red color of ripe tomato fruits and tomato products. It has attracted attention due to its biological and physicochemical properties, especially related to its effects as a natural antioxidant. Although it has no provitamin A activity, lycopene does exhibit a physical quenching rate constant with singlet oxygen almost twice as high as that of beta-carotene. This makes its presence in the diet of considerable interest. Increasing clinical evidence supports the role of lycopene as a micronutrient with important health benefits, because it appears to provide protection against a broad range of epithelial cancers. Tomatoes and related tomato products are the major source of lycopene compounds, and are also considered an important source of carotenoids in the human diet.
Lycopene suggested uses include for cancer, preventing atherosclerosis, cardiovascular disease, prostate cancer, human papillomavirus (HPV) infection, cataracts, asthma, antioxidant, and as an anti-inflammatory.
There is no association between lycopene and the risk of bladder and colon cancers.
There are conflicting studies on use of lycopene for cardiovascular disease. More studies are needed to determine effectiveness.
There is insufficient information about effectiveness of lycopene for atherosclerosis.
Lycopene administered as a pure compound has been studied in clinical trials at dosages of 7 to 75 mg/day. Lycopene is primarily available in capsule and softgel form, with dosage guidelines from manufacturers ranging from 10 to 30 mg taken twice daily with meals. Lycopene is also incorporated in multivitamin and multimineral products.
Lycopene is currently the most powerful antioxidant which has been measured in food (2) and is thought to play a role in preventing cancer, heart disease, and macular degeneration (3,4,5,6,7,8). How large a protective role lycopene plays is a controversial issue, still under scientific study.
Lycopene is a carotenoid that gives many fruits and vegetables their red color. Eating lycopene in excess amounts can cause the skin and liver to have a yellow color. Unlike other carotenes, lycopene does not get converted into vitamin A.
There are no known symptoms of a lycopene deficiency, and no daily value (DV) for lycopene.
High lycopene foods include guavas, cooked tomatoes, watermelon, grapefruit, papaya, sweet red peppers, persimmon, asparagus, red cabbage, and mangos.
1. Prostate Cancer:
Prostate cancer is known to be the top three cancers in men. Prostate cancer can be possibly prevented by a healthy intake of lycopene. For people who already suffer from prostate cancer and face removal of the prostate, a lycopene rich diet is prescribed at least two to three weeks before the surgery to reduce and control cancer remission and cancer cell proliferation.
2. Improved heart health
Lycopene rich foods like tomatoes and red cabbage might help might decrease the risk associated with panic attacks and stroke. The antioxidant properties of lycopene protects you by inhibiting the formation of blood clots, which is the primary reason behind strokes. As an added benefit, lycopene also has anti inflammatory effect on the blood vessels inside the brain, which acts as a protection against stroke. Additionally, the nutrient lycopene helps in maintaining a low blood pressure and prevents against coronary heart disease.
3. Keep your eyes healthy:
Lycopene protects your eyes from oxidative stress that causes common eye diseases, making it one of the strongest eye vitamins you can consume. Lycopene may even have the ability to prevent or delay cataracts to a certain extent. Lycopene also has a great effect on the chemical processes that lead to age-related macular degeneration which is the leading cause of blindness in the old age.
4. Keep your bones strong:
Vitamin K and calcium are not the only things that promote bone density. The nutrient lycopene helps in relieving oxidative stress in bones that cause brittle and weak bones. It slows the apoptosis (cell death) that weakens the bones and reinforces the cellular architecture of bones thereby keeping them healthy and strong.
Foods that are rich sources of Lycopene:
Sweet red peppers