What in the world is Lycopene? Why do I need it?  What are the side effects?

Lycopene is a pigment and part of the carotenoid family. Carotenoids are found in the fatty tissues of the human body and transported through the body by lipoproteins.  Carotenoids are metabolic building blocks and necessary for your health.  The pigment lycopene helps give vegetables and fruits a reddish color which gives us a clue as to which foods have it.

Food lycopene is found in high amounts in tomatoes and tomato products.  Also, other pink and red colored fruits and vegetables contain lycopene.


Lycopene is strong antioxidant which neutralizes free radicals which can damage your body’s cells.  Some laboratory experiments have shown that lycopene is much more effective as an antioxidant than other carotenoids, including beta-carotene (found in carrots).  Antioxidants remove and protect against free radicals.  Free radicals are highly reactive atoms and molecules that damage DNA and other important molecules in your cells.

Studies and laboratory results have identified four major health concerns that are helped by lycopene:


Lycopene research indicates that it may reduce the chance of serum lipid oxidization which evident in lung, cervix, prostate, bladder and skin cancer.  An Italian study has shown that eating at least one tomato-based product a day reduced the chance of contracting digestive tract cancer by 50% than those who did not eat tomatoes.  A Harvard University Study in 1995 found that eating 10 or more servings a week of tomato products reduced the risk of prostate cancer by 34%.  Other studies have shown that having increased blood levels of carotenoids like lycopene reduced the risk of prostate cancer.  Lycopene has also demonstrated the ability to have other anti-cancer activities particular to healthy intercellular communication.

Macular Degeneration

Another area where free-radical damage can occur is in the eyes, causing cataracts and macular degeneration.  Studies have shown that nutritional antioxidants slow down the progression of cataracts and age-related macular degeneration.  University of Maryland performed a study and found that eating tomatoes may protect the eyes by deterring macular degeneration, a cause of vision loss in older people.  When they people in the study ate tomatoes, the eye tissue would have high levels of lycopene.


Although there is not as much study for this benefit, there is some evidence that lycopene, when administered systematically, may be effective as a treatment for gingivitis.


Asthma is a chronic disease that involves the inflammation of the lungs. New research published by The Journal of Nutritional Biochemistry has found that lycopene may protect against inflammation in the lungs and thus reduce the risk of developing asthma.  The conclusion to this research was that lycopene reduces inflammation in both lungs by decreasing Th2 cytokine responses.

Food Sources with Lycopene

Tomatoes are an excellent source of lycopene, but not the only source.  Watermelon, pink grapefruit, rosehip, and papaya are also great sources of lycopene.  Research has shown that lycopene is absorbed more effectively into our bodies if it has been processed into a liquid form such as juice, sauce, paste or ketchup.  Also, eating the fruits and vegetables with a small amount of oil or fat increases the amount of lycopene absorbed by the intestines.


The optimal dose of lycopene is not known at this time.  The recommended daily intake of lycopene has been set at 6 to 30 milligrams.  You can aid your lycopene intake with supplements, in doses up to 75 mg daily for the long term.  This dosage does not seem to pose any health risks.

Side Effects

If you are allergic to tomatoes or lycopene, you should not take lycopene supplements.  High intakes of lycopene-rich foods may cause a deep orange skin discoloration.  If you are taking any prescription drugs, you should consult your physician for any conflicts between the drugs and lycopene.

Source: Lycopene Dosage and Side Effects


About Gary

I am retired, but not tired. I still want to be valuable to others. I know that others are valuable to me. After looking back on six decades, I have asked myself this question: “What do I believe?” My mind filled up. My heart started beating faster. My spirit soared. I post blogs to share what my mind is working on, what my heart believes would help others and, what my spirit is communicating to me. What do I believe, you ask? Decisions dictate your path In love, not hate In tolerance, not prejudice In health, not sickness In wealth, not poverty In kindness, rudeness In happiness, not sadness In encouragement, not discouragement In faith, not doubt In courage, not fear I have been and will be challenged in each one of these beliefs, but the biggest belief is to stay positive and not turn negative. This belief helps me maintain all of the others.

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