Lycopene is a naturally occurring chemical that gives fruits and vegetables a red color. It is one of a number of pigments called carotenoids. Lycopene is found in tomatoes, watermelons, red oranges, pink grapefruits, apricots, rosehips, and guavas. In North America, 85% of dietary lycopene comes from tomato products such as ketchup, tomato juice, sauce, or paste. A serving of fresh tomatoes contains between 4 mg and 10 mg of lycopene, while one cup (240 mL) of tomato juice provides about 20 mg. Processing raw tomatoes using heat (in the making of tomato juice, tomato paste or ketchup, for example) actually changes the lycopene in the raw product into a form that is easier for the body to use. The lycopene in supplements is about as easy for the body to use as lycopene found in food.
People take lycopene for preventing heart disease; "hardening of the arteries" (atherosclerosis); and cancer of the prostate, breast, lung, bladder, ovaries, colon, and pancreas. Lycopene is also used for treating human papilloma virus (HPV) infection, benign prostatic hyperplasia (BPH), asthma, hypertension, high cholesterol, congestive heart failure (CHF), gingivitis, and menopausal symptoms. Some people also use lycopene to prevent cataracts, amyotrophic lateral sclerosis (ALS, Lou Gehrig's disease), Parkinson's disease, and sunburn.
How it works
Lycopene is a powerful antioxidant that may help protect cells from damage. This is why there is a lot of research interest in lycopene's role, if any, in preventing cancer.
Possibly EffectiveHigh blood pressure
Taking a specific lycopene product (LycoMato, LycoRed Corp., Orange, NJ) daily for 8 weeks seems to lower blood pressure in people with high blood pressure. However, taking this same product did not lower blood pressure in people with pre-hypertension.
Lycopene is LIKELY SAFE when taken by mouth in appropriate amounts. Daily supplements containing up to 120 mg of lycopene have been used safely for up to one year.
Pregnancy and breast-feeding: Lycopene isLIKELY SAFEduring pregnancy and breast-feeding when taken in amounts commonly found in foods. However, lycopene isPOSSIBLY UNSAFEwhen taken as a supplement during pregnancy. In one study, using a specific lycopene supplement (LycoRed, Jagsonpal Pharmaceuticals, India) 2 mg daily, starting between weeks 12 and 20 of pregnancy and continuing until delivery, increased the rate of premature births and low-birth-weight babies. But in another study using the same lycopene supplement, these problems weren't seen. Not enough is known about the safety of lycopene supplements during breast-feeding. If you arepregnantor breast-feeding, avoid using lycopene in amounts greater than those typically found in foods.Are there any interactions with medications?
Surgery: Lycopene might slow blood clotting. It might increase the risk of bleeding during and after surgery. Stop using lycopene supplements at least 2 weeks before a scheduled surgery.
ModerateMedications that slow blood clotting (Anticoagulant / Antiplatelet drugs)
Lycopene might slow blood clotting. Taking lycopene along with medications that also slow clotting might increase the chances of bruising and bleeding.Some medications that slow blood clotting include aspirin, clopidogrel (Plavix), dalteparin (Fragmin), enoxaparin (Lovenox), heparin, indomethacin (Indocin), ticlopidine (Ticlid), warfarin (Coumadin), and others.