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