Lycopene health supplement

Lycopene is a powerful antioxidant found in red color fruits and vegetables which helps to prevent cancer, heart disease and other serious diseases.

It is an open-chain unsaturated pigmented carotenoid which occurs naturally in foods and gives fruits and vegetables such as tomatoes, watermelon, guava, and pink grapefruit their red tint. Generally the redder the food, the more lycopene is present.

How It Works

Once lycopene is absorbed into the body, it helps to prevent and repair damaged cells. Lycopene is primarily stored in blood and tissues such as the testis, adrenal glands, liver, prostate, breast, colon, and lungs.

Research shows that lycopene obtained from processed foods such as tomato paste, sauce, juice, and ketchup can be absorbed easier and more efficiently by the body than from fruits and vegetables in their natural form.

Lycopene is a fat-soluble substance that requires the presence of dietary fat for proper absorption into the body. A diet low in fat can impair the body’s ability to absorb lycopene. Also, certain cholesterol-lowering medications, margarines enriched with synthetic plant sterols such as Benecol, and fat substitutes such as Olestra can also decrease the body’s ability to absorb lycopene.

Benefits of Lycopene

Because lycopene is a potent antioxidant, it helps to neutralizes free radicals which can damage cells in the body. This helps to reduce the risk of cancer and strokes.

Ongoing research suggests that lycopene reduces the risk of macular degenerative diseases, and cancers of the lungs, bladder, cervix, prostate, breast, skin, and digestive track.

An October, 1998 study revealed that lycopene prevents oxidation of low density lipoprotein (LDL) cholesterol which helps to reduce the risk of developing coronary heart disease and stroke.

A Harvard study released in 1995 indicated that male individuals taking lycopene supplements were 45% less likely to develop prostate cancer than those not taking the supplements.

Lycopene may be able to help keep skin looking fresh and youthful. Skin burned by UV rays, tanning and premature aging can be combated with the antioxidants in lycopene. The lycopene helps to reduce the damage to skin by regenerating new skin cells.

Another small study suggests that lycopene can help reduce the instances of exercise-induced asthma among some people.

Side Effects

Although there are no known side effects due to ingesting Lycopene, excessive amounts can cause a deep orange discoloration of the skin. It is a harmless condition called lycopenodermia and usually fades away after discontinuing the supplements. Lycopene is considered to be non-toxic and generally safe.

Some research indicates that smoke from cigarettes may cause lycopene to become oxidized, thus causing cellular damage. This can explain why cigarette smokers who take carotenoid supplements have an increased risk of cancer and heart disease.

Lycopene has received a lot of attention from researchers over the past several years. Extensive ongoing research is being conducted in the important role lycopene plays in combating cancer. Although the research sounds promising, there is still a lot to learn about the benefits and side effects of lycopene.

There currently is no daily recommendation for lycopene. Most lycopene supplements range from 5 to 15 miligrams per day.