What Is Lycopene?
Lycopene is a red carotenoid pigment that gives tomatoes, watermelons, and pink grapefruit their characteristic color. There are over 2,000 peer-reviewed studies dedicated to lycopene, making it one of the most studied plant chemicals. Even though its health-promoting effects are diverse, lycopene specifically fortifies male reproductive health in unique ways. It also supports cardiovascular health and helps reduce plaque from forming in arteries.*
Benefits of Lycopene
- Helps protect prostate cells from oxidative stress*
- Promotes improved sperm quality and motility*
- Supports cardiovascular health*
- Helps protect skin from damaging effects of the sun*
What You Need to Know About Lycopene
Lycopene is a red plant pigment (a carotenoid) most famously found in tomatoes but also occurs in watermelon, pink grapefruit, and papaya.
Interest in lycopene has grown exponentially because of its role in prostate support and sexual health.
Lycopene is, of course, a hugely powerful antioxidant, which explains a lot of its beneficial effects. It's also a potent inflammation-support agent, promotes healthy arteries, exhibits strong immunity support, and has significant abilities to modulate phase I and phase II enzymes protecting cells and tissues in general.
Tomatoes contain relatively large amounts of lycopene (roughly 31 micrograms per gram). However, getting adequate or beneficial amounts of lycopene isn't as easy as eating a tomato daily.
The frustrating thing is that the lycopene molecules in a fresh tomato are all in the poorly absorbed trans configuration. You can convert lycopene to its easily absorbed cis isomer by processing the tomatoes with heat or pureeing them.
While eating tomato paste or stewed tomatoes is, in theory, a much more viable way to get adequate amounts of lycopene, it's still problematic due to the tomato variability.
Then there's the issue of dosage. Estimates of how much we need for optimal health run to 25 milligrams a day, making it extremely difficult to get that much from natural sources.
That leaves taking lycopene as a standardized supplement as the best viable option.
Products Containing Lycopene
Research on Lycopene
- Chen P et al. Lycopene and Risk of Prostate Cancer. A Systematic Review and Meta-Analysis. Medicine (Baltimore). 2015 Aug;94(33): 31260. Summary: This study demonstrates that higher lycopene consumption/circulating concentration is associated with a lower risk of PCa.
- Lane JA et al. ProDiet: A Phase II Randomized Placebo-controlled Trial of Green Tea Catechins and Lycopene in Men at Increased Risk of Prostate Cancer. Cancer Pres Res. 2018 Nov;11(1): 687-696. Summary: This study aimed to establish the feasibility and acceptability of dietary modification in men at increased risk of prostate cancer. Men were invited with a PSA level of 2.0-2.95 ng/mL or 3.0-19.95 ng/mL with negative prostate biopsies. Randomization (3 × 3 factorial design) to daily green tea and lycopene: green tea drink (3 cups, unblinded) or capsules [blinded, 600 mg flavan-3-ol ()-epigallocatechin-3-gallate (EGCG) or placebo] and lycopene-rich foods (unblinded) or capsules (blinded, 15 mg lycopene or placebo) for 6 months. All interventions were acceptable and well tolerated although men preferred the capsules. Dietary prevention is acceptable to men at risk of prostate cancer. This intervention trial demonstrates that a chemoprevention clinical trial is feasible.
- Wang Y et al. Lycopene, tomato products and prostate cancer-specific mortality among men diagnosed with nonmetastatic prostate cancer in the Cancer Prevention Study II Nutrition Cohort. Int J Cancer. 2016 June 15;138 (12):2846-55. Summary: Among men with high-risk cancers (T3-T4 or Gleason score 8-10, or nodal involvement), consistently reporting lycopene intake ≥ median on both post diagnosis surveys was associated with lower prostate-cancer specific mortality.