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Lycopene is a plant nutrient with antioxidant properties. It’s the pigment that gives red and pink fruits, such as tomatoes, watermelons and pink grapefruit, their characteristic color. Lycopene has been linked to health benefits ranging from heart health to protection against sunburns and certain types of cancers.

This post looks at the health benefits and top food sources of lycopene.

Benefits of Lycopene

Strong Antioxidant Properties

Lycopene is an antioxidant in the carotenoid family. Antioxidants protect your body from damage caused by compounds known as free radicals. When free radical levels outnumber antioxidant levels, they can create oxidative stress in your body. This stress is linked to certain chronic diseases, such as cancer, diabetes, heart disease and Alzheimer’s. Research shows that lycopene’s antioxidant properties can help keep free radical levels in balance, protecting your body against some of these conditions.

In addition, test-tube and animal studies show that lycopene may protect your body against damage caused by pesticides, herbicides, monosodium glutamate (MSG) and certain types of fungi.

May Protect Against Certain Types of Cancer

Lycopene’s strong antioxidant action may prevent or slow down the progression of some types of cancer. For instance, test-tube studies show that the nutrient may slow down the growth of breast and prostate cancers by limiting tumor growth. Animal studies further report that it may prevent the growth of cancer cells in the kidneys. In humans, observational studies link high intakes of carotenoids, including lycopene, to a 32–50% lower risk of lung and prostate cancers. A 23-year study in more than 46,000 men looked at the link between lycopene and prostate cancer in more detail. Men who consumed at least two servings of lycopene-rich tomato sauce per week were 30% less likely to develop prostate cancer than those who ate less than one serving of tomato sauce per month. However, a recent review of 26 studies found more moderate results. Researchers linked high lycopene intakes to a 9% lower likelihood of developing prostate cancer. Daily intakes of 9–21 mg per day appeared most beneficial.

May Promote Heart Health

Lycopene may also help lower your risk of developing or prematurely dying from heart disease. That’s in part because it may reduce heart disease risk factors. More specifically, it may reduce free-radical damage, total and “bad” LDL cholesterol levels and increase “good” HDL cholesterol. High blood levels of lycopene may also add years to the lives of people with metabolic syndrome — a combination of health conditions that can lead to heart disease. Over a 10-year period, researchers noted that individuals with metabolic disease who had the highest blood lycopene levels had up to a 39% lower risk of dying prematurely. In another 10-year study, diets rich in this nutrient were linked to a 17–26% lower risk of heart disease. A recent review further associates high blood levels of lycopene with a 31% lower risk of stroke. Lycopene’s protective effects appear particularly beneficial to those with low blood antioxidant levels or high levels of oxidative stress. This includes older adults and people who smoke or have diabetes or heart disease.

May Protect Against Sunburn

Lycopene also appears to offer some protection against the damaging effects of the sun. In one small 12-week study, participants were exposed to UV rays before and after consuming either 16 mg of lycopene from tomato paste or a placebo. Participants in the tomato paste group had less severe skin reactions to the UV exposure. In another 12-week study, daily intake of 8–16 mg of lycopene, either from food or supplements, helped reduce the intensity of skin redness following exposure to UV rays by 40–50%. In this study, supplements providing a mix of lycopene and other carotenoids were more effective against UV damage than those providing lycopene alone.

Other Potential Benefits

Lycopene may also offer a range of other health benefits — the best-researched ones include:

    May help your eyesight: Lycopene may prevent or delay the formation of cataracts and reduce your risk of macular degeneration, the leading cause of blindness in older adults. May reduce pain: Lycopene may help reduce neuropathic pain, a type of pain caused by nerve and tissue damage. May protect your brain: Lycopene’s antioxidant properties may help prevent seizures and memory loss experienced in age-related diseases, such as Alzheimer’s. May contribute to stronger bones: Lycopene’s antioxidant action may slow down the death of bone cells, reinforce bone architecture and help keep bones healthy and strong.

    Top Food Sources

    All natural foods with a rich pink to red color generally contain some lycopene. Tomatoes are the biggest food source, and the riper the tomato, the more lycopene it contains. But you can find this nutrient in an array of other foods as well.

    Here’s a list of foods containing the most lycopene per 100 grams (33):

    • Sun-dried tomatoes: 45.9 mg
    • Tomato purée: 21.8 mg
    • Guava: 5.2 mg
    • Watermelon: 4.5 mg?
    • Fresh tomatoes: 3.0 mg
    • Canned tomatoes: 2.7 mg
    • Papaya: 1.8 mg
    • Pink grapefruit: 1.1 mg
    • Cooked sweet red peppers: 0.5 mg

    Lycopene Supplements

    Though lycopene is present in my many foods, you can also take it in supplement form. If you don't eat a nutritious variety of foods, some supplements might help you get adequate amounts of essential nutrients. Suggested lycopene food pill is, Nutridecc® - LycoDecc™ Food Pills , Antioxidant food pills are formulated with high potent Lycopene plus Vitamins B, C, E powered with essential minerals and fatty acids.


    The content of this blog is not intended to be a substitute for professional medical advice, diagnosis, or treatment. always seek the advice of your physician or other qualified health professional regarding any medical condition. while every care is taken to ensure the accuracy of the information presented in the blog and to describe best generally accepted current practices we cannot accept any liability for errors or omissions or for any consequences from application of the information given.