Uses

Lycopene, found primarily in tomatoes, is a member of the carotenoid family-which includes beta-carotene and similar compounds found naturally in food-and has potent antioxidant capabilities.

What Are Star Ratings?

This supplement has been used in connection with the following health conditions:

Used for Why
2 Stars
Asthma
30 mg daily
Lycopene, an antioxidant found in tomatoes, helps reduce exercise-related asthma attacks.

Lycopene, an antioxidant related to beta-carotene and found in tomatoes, helps reduce the symptoms of asthma caused by exercising. In one double-blind trial, over half of people with exercise-induced asthma had significantly fewer asthma symptoms after taking capsules containing 30 mg of lycopene per day for one week compared to when they took a placebo.

2 Stars
Sunburn
Take 6 mg daily from a tomato extract during periods of high sun exposure
Studies have shown lycopene to be helpful in protecting the skin from sunburn.

Antioxidants may protect the skin from sunburn due to free radical-producing ultraviolet rays. Combinations of 1,000 to 2,000 IU per day of vitamin E and 2,000 to 3,000 mg per day of vitamin C, but neither given alone, have a significant protective effect against ultraviolet rays, according to double-blind studies.

Oral synthetic beta-carotene alone was not found to provide effective protection when given in amounts of 15 mg per day or for only a few weeks' time in larger amounts of 60 to 90 mg per day, but it has been effective either in very large (180 mg per day) amounts or in smaller amounts (30 mg per day) in combination with topical sunscreen.

Natural sources of beta-carotene or other carotenoids have been more consistently shown to protect against sunburn. One controlled study found that taking a supplement of natural carotenoids (almost all of which was beta-carotene) in daily amounts of 30 mg, 60 mg, and 90 mg gave progressively more protection against ultraviolet rays. In another controlled study, either 24 mg per day of natural beta-carotene or 24 mg per day of a carotenoid combination of equal amounts beta-carotene, lutein, and lycopene helped protect skin from ultraviolet rays. A preliminary study compared synthetic lycopene (10.1 mg per day), a natural tomato extract containing 9.8 mg of lycopene per day plus additional amounts of other carotenoids, and a solubilized tomato drink (designed to increase lycopene absorption) containing 8.2 mg of lycopene plus additional amounts of other carotenoids. After 12 weeks, only the two tomato-based products were shown to give significant protection against burning by ultraviolet light.

It should be noted that while oral protection from sunburn has been demonstrated with several types of antioxidants, the degree of protection (typically less than an SPF of 2) is much less than that provided by currently available topical sunscreens. On the other hand, these modest effects will provide some added protection to skin areas where sunscreen is also used and will give a small amount of protection to sun-exposed areas where sunscreen is not applied. However, oral protection from sunburn is not instantaneous; maximum effects are not reached until these antioxidants have been used for about eight to ten weeks.

1 Star
Atherosclerosis
Refer to label instructions
The carotenoid lycopene, present in high amounts in tomatoes, may help prevent atherosclerosis.

The carotenoid, lycopene, has been found to be low in the blood of people with atherosclerosis, particularly if they are smokers. Although no association between atherosclerosis and blood level of any other carotenoid (e.g., beta-carotene) was found, the results of this study suggested a protective role for lycopene. Lycopene is present in high amounts in tomatoes.

1 Star
Immune Function
Refer to label instructions
Large amounts of the carotenoid lycopene have been shown to increase the activity of natural killer cells in the elderly.
Large amounts of the carotenoid lycopene have been shown to increase the activity of NK cells in the elderly. In a controlled trial, 15 mg of lycopene significantly increased NK cell concentration, but no other immune functions.
1 Star
Prostate Cancer
4 mg twice per day
In a preliminary trial, supplementing with lycopene reduced the incidence of prostate cancer in men with precancerous changes in their prostate glands.
In a preliminary trial, supplementation with 4 mg of lycopene twice a day for one year reduced the incidence of prostate cancer in men with precancerous changes in their prostate glands. Long-term controlled studies are needed to confirm these promising initial reports.

How It Works

How to Use It

The ideal intake of lycopene is currently unknown; however, the men in the Harvard study with the greatest protection against cancer consumed at least 6.5 mg per day.

Where to Find It

Tomatoes and tomato-containing foods are high in lycopene. In the Harvard study, the only tomato-based food that did not correlate with protection was tomato juice. In an unblinded, controlled trial, lycopene supplementation, but not tomato juice, effectively increased the body's lycopene stores.1 These studies suggest that the lycopene present in tomato juice is poorly absorbed. However, other research indicates that significant amounts of lycopene from tomato juice can, in fact, be absorbed.2 Other foods that contain lycopene include watermelon, pink grapefruit, and guava.

Possible Deficiencies

This is unknown, but people who do not eat diets high in tomatoes or tomato products are likely to consume less than optimal amounts.

Interactions

Interactions with Supplements, Foods, & Other Compounds

At the time of writing, there were no well-known supplement or food interactions with this supplement.

Interactions with Medicines

As of the last update, we found no reported interactions between this supplement and medicines. It is possible that unknown interactions exist. If you take medication, always discuss the potential risks and benefits of adding a new supplement with your doctor or pharmacist.
The Drug-Nutrient Interactions table may not include every possible interaction. Taking medicines with meals, on an empty stomach, or with alcohol may influence their effects. For details, refer to the manufacturers' package information as these are not covered in this table. If you take medications, always discuss the potential risks and benefits of adding a supplement with your doctor or pharmacist.

Side Effects

Side Effects

At the time of writing, there were no well-known side effects caused by this supplement.

References

1. Paetau I, Rao D, Wiley ER, et al. Carotenoids in human buccal mucosa cells after 4 wk of supplementation with tomato juice or lycopene supplements. Am J Clin Nutr 1999;70:490-4.

2. Paetau I, Khachik F, Brown ED, et al. Chronic ingestion of lycopene-rich tomato juice or lycopene supplements significantly increases plasma concentrations of lycopene and related tomato carotenoids in humans. Am J Clin Nutr 1998;68:1187-95.