Lycopene supplement benefit, side effects, prostate cancer, dosage and 10 mg tablets, tomato source
January 2 2016 by
Ray Sahelian, M.D. 

Lycopene, a carotenoid in the same family as beta carotene, is what gives a tomato, and several other fruits, their deep red color. It is one of the major carotenoids in the diet of North Americans and accounts for close to 50% of the carotenoid distribution found in blood. Foods that are commonly consumed which contain lycopene are tomato products, watermelon, pink grapefruit, apricots, papaya, and guava.

Content in tomato
There is about 5 mg of lycopene per 100 gram of ripe tomato fruit. The concentration in tomatoes increases significantly during the ripening process.

Lycopene Benefit
There are many medical conditions where supplementation could potentially be helpful, but until actual human trials are done, we will not know for certain. Please keep in mind that most Americans consume a good amount of lycopene naturally in their diet, therefore it is difficult to know whether a supplement is as helpful for those living in the USA as it would be for those who live in countries where this nutrient is not consumed as much in one's diet.

buy Lycopene supplement 10 mg pill

Lycopene is the pigment that gives tomatoes their red color, and is one of four main carotenoids normally found in human blood and tissue. Studies show that it is a scavenger of singlet-oxygen, offering powerful antioxidant activity. Supplementation with this nutrieint has been shown to increase serum levels. Lower blood levels are associated with higher body weight, aging, and smoking.

Supplement Facts
Lycopene 10 mg each pill


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Suggested Use, dosage, how much to take: One lycopene softgel a few times a week with a meal, or as recommended by your health care professional. I do not think it is necessary to dose daily.

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Benefits of lycopene

Lycopene, one of more than 600 carotenoids found in nature, is a powerful antioxidant, probably more powerful than beta carotene. Studies show it works well together with several other antioxidants, including vitamin E and flavonoids.

Blood Pressure, hypertension
Researchers in Israel have found that a daily dose of lycopene helped lower blood pressure among 31 men and women with mild hypertension. On average, their systolic pressure -- the top number in a blood-pressure reading -- dropped 10 points, while their diastolic pressure, or bottom number, dipped four points.

Erectile dysfunction or impotence
Although it may have such a benefit, I think there are much more potent erection enhancing substances.

Results indicated that lycopene treatment is potentially a new strategy for treating diabetic ED. Pharmazie. 2012. Lycopene ameliorates erectile dysfunction in streptozotocin-induced diabetic rats.

Eyesight and vision
Lycopene is a carotenoid that provides healthy eyesight support. It is found in the eye but lutein and zeaxanthin are found in much higher concentrations.

Heart, blood vessels
Lycopene and other carotenoids may provide healthy support to the cardiovascular system. As an antioxidant it helps protect cholesterol from being oxidized.

Cardiovascular disease is a major contributor to morbidity and mortality in the United States and worldwide. Does providing lycopene through a supplement source is as effective as or more effective than consuming it through whole food sources, specifically the tomato, which is the richest source of lycopene in the Western diet? A review examined clinical trials comparing the efficacy of lycopene supplements with tomato products on intermediate heart and blood vessel risk factors including oxidative stress, inflammation, endothelial function, blood pressure, and lipid metabolism. At present the available clinical research supports consuming tomato-based foods as a first-line approach to cardiovascular health. With the exception of blood pressure management where lycopene supplementation was favored, tomato intake provided more favorable results on cardiovascular risk endpoints than did lycopene supplementation. Whole Food versus Supplement: Comparing the Clinical Evidence of Tomato Intake and Lycopene Supplementation on Cardiovascular Risk Factors. Adv Nutr 2014.

Oral Leukoplakia
One study showed that lycopene supplements were helpful in oral leukoplakia.

Efficacy of oral lycopene in the treatment of oral leukoplakia.
Oral Oncol. 2004.
Fifty-eight clinically and histologically diagnosed patients of oral leukoplakia were randomly divided into three groups. Group A: (8 mg lycopene/day), Group B: (4 mg lycopene /day) and Group C placebo). The duration of the therapy was three months. Clinically the patients in Groups A, B, C had a mean response of 80%, 66% and 12% respectively. Histological evaluation too had similar results. The observed effect of lycopene suggests that it can be effectively and safely used for the management of oral leukoplakia.

Population studies show that people who eat large amounts of foods with lycopene, such as cooked tomatoes, have a reduced risk of certain cancers including cervix, mouth, pharynx, esophagus, stomach, pancreas, colon and rectum. While animal and laboratory studies show lycopene to hold promise as a cancer treatment, long term human studies are determine to learn whether the results apply to humans.

Pancreatic cancer
Dietary intake of lycopene is associated with reduced pancreatic cancer risk.
J Nutr. 2005.
A case-control study of 462 histologically confirmed pancreatic cancer cases and 4721 population-based controls in 8 Canadian provinces took place between 1994 and 1997. After adjustment for age, province, BMI, smoking, educational attainment, dietary folate, and total energy intake, lycopene, provided mainly by tomatoes, was associated with a 31% reduction in pancreatic cancer risk among men when comparing the highest and lowest quartiles of intake. Both beta-carotene and total carotenoids were associated with a significantly reduced risk among those who never smoked. The results of this study suggest that a diet rich in tomatoes and tomato-based products with high lycopene content may help reduce pancreatic cancer risk.

Prostate Cancer
has shown to potentially play a role in prostate cancer, and perhaps other cancers, including cervix, mouth, pharynx, esophagus, stomach, pancreas, colon and rectum. It helps prevent damage to DNA.

Nat Rev Urol. 2014. Prostate cancer: New data on dietary lycopene suggests reduced risk.

Tomato phytochemicals and prostate cancer risk.
J Nutr. 2004.
Mounting evidence over the past decade suggests that the consumption of fresh and processed tomato products is associated with reduced risk of prostate cancer. The emerging hypothesis is that lycopene, the primary red carotenoid in tomatoes, may be the principle phytochemical responsible for this reduction in risk. A number of potential mechanisms by which it may act have emerged, including serving as an important in vivo antioxidant, enhancing cell-to-cell communication via increasing gap junctions between cells, and modulating cell-cycle progression. Although the effect of lycopene is biologically relevant, the tomato is also an excellent source of nutrients, including folate, vitamin C, and various other carotenoids and phytochemicals, such as polyphenols, which also may be associated with lower cancer risk. Tomatoes also contain significant quantities of potassium, as well as some vitamin A and vitamin E. We carried out cell culture trials to evaluate the effects of tomato carotenoids and tomato polyphenols on growth of prostate cancer cells. We also evaluated the ability of freeze-dried whole-tomato powder or lycopene alone to reduce growth of prostate tumors in rats. This paper reviews the epidemiological evidence, evaluating the relationship between prostate cancer risk and tomato consumption, and presents experimental data from this and other laboratories that support the hypothesis that whole tomato and its phytochemical components such as lycopene reduce the risk of prostate cancer.

Do dietary lycopene and other carotenoids protect against prostate cancer?
Int J Cancer. 2004.
Our results suggest that vegetables and fruits rich in lycopene and other carotenoids may be protective against prostate cancer.

Curtin University of Technology, Perth, investigators conducted a study in southeast China involving 130 patients with prostate cancer, and a comparison group of 274 cancer-free controls. The risk of prostate cancer declined with increasing consumption of lycopene, alpha-carotene, beta-carotene and other carotenoids. Consumption of foods including tomatoes, spinach and citrus fruits was also associated with a reduced cancer risk. The researchers conclude that carotenoids in vegetables and fruits may be inversely related to prostate carcinogenesis among Chinese men. International Journal of Cancer, 2005.

A comparison of lycopene and orchidectomy vs orchidectomy alone in the management of advanced prostate cancer.
BJU Int. 2003.
Adding lycopene to orchidectomy produced a more reliable and consistent decrease in serum PSA level; it not only shrinks the primary tumour but also diminishes the secondary tumors, providing better relief from bone pain and lower urinary tract symptoms, and improving survival compared with orchidectomy alone.

Stomach cancer
J Cancer Prev. 2015. Anticancer Effect of Lycopene in Gastric Carcinogenesis. Gastric cancer ranks as the most common cancer and the second leading cause of cancer-related death in the world. Risk factors of gastric carcinogenesis include oxidative stress, DNA damage, Helicobacter pylori infection, bad eating habits, and smoking. Since oxidative stress is related to DNA damage, smoking, and H. pylori infection, scavenging of reactive oxygen species may be beneficial for prevention of gastric carcinogenesis. Lycopene, one of the naturally occurring carotenoids, has unique structural and chemical features that contributes to a potent antioxidant activity. It shows a potential anticancer activity and reduces gastric cancer incidence.

Mechanism of action
Lycopene acts in many different ways in the body. It works as an antioxidant and it may help reduce DNA damage. Furthermore, lycopene inhibits prostatic IGF-I signaling, IL-6 expression (interleukin), and androgen signaling. Moreover, lycopene improves communication between cells, and induces phase II drug metabolizing enzymes.

Lycopene in food
Foods that are commonly consumed which contain it are tomato products, watermelon, pink grapefruit, apricots, guava, and papaya. Lycopene is one of the major carotenoids in the diet of North Americans and accounts for close to 50% of the carotenoid distribution found in blood. Cooking tomatoes weakens the fruits' cell walls, which makes it easier for your body to absorb. A half-cup of spaghetti sauce has as much lycopene as four or five medium raw tomatoes. There is no Recommended Dietary Allowance or Dietary Reference Intake but studies suggest that about 20 milligrams daily is beneficial. That's roughly 1 cup tomato juice. Besides tomatoes, other pink- and red-hued fruits contain lycopene. These are the amounts for some often-used products:

1 tablespoon tomato ketchup: 2 milligrams
1/4 cup cocktail sauce: 7 milligrams
1/4 cup tomato sauce: 9 milligrams
1/2 cup spaghetti sauce: 20 milligrams
1/2 pound watermelon: 10 milligrams
1 whole pink grapefruit: 3 milligrams
1 papaya: 3 milligrams

You can get lycopene in a supplement, but consuming foods such as canned tomatoes or guava bestows other benefits including vitamins A, C, and E; folate; potassium; and fiber.

Do You need a supplement?
Lycopene, found in many fruits and vegetables -- especially tomatoes and watermelon -- may play an important role in reducing risks of many diseases, including prostate cancer and breast cancer. I think tomatoes and tomato based products are consumed by Americans in a disproportionate basis compared to other fruits and vegetables. In other words, we may be consuming enough in our diet but perhaps not enough of other healthy substances found in a number of fruits and vegetables that are eaten infrequently. Therefore, I am not yet convinced that taking a lycopene supplement will provide benefits to most people, unless their diet is low on tomato based products. Perhaps those who consume adequate or large amounts of tomato based products may be better off taking other types of supplements such as those found in acai, goji, noni, pomegranate, curcumin, soy extracts, artichoke, asparagus, barley grass, etc. The point is, if you plan to take supplements, it may be better to take those that you don't normally consume in your diet as opposed to something like lycopene where it may already be abundant in your diet.

Lycopene Research
Taking lycopene supplements doesn't help athletes who have difficulty breathing during exercise, a condition called exercise-induced bronchospasm (EIB), according to a report in the Annals of Allergy, Asthma, and Immunology.

Dietary lycopene and other carotenoids may protect against prostate cancer, Australian and Chinese researchers report. The findings confirm those of other studies that have identified lycopene as a protective agent against some types of cancers. Lee, of Curtin University of Technology, Perth, and colleagues conducted a study in southeast China involving 130 patients with prostate cancer, and a comparison group of 274 cancer-free "controls."  After factoring in age, total fat and caloric intake, as well as family history, diet appeared to have an influence on the odds of developing prostate cancer. The risk of prostate cancer declined with increasing consumption of lycopene, alpha-carotene, beta-carotene and other carotenoids. Consumption of foods including tomatoes, spinach and citrus fruits was also associated with a reduced cancer risk. The researchers conclude that "carotenoids in vegetables and fruits may be inversely related to prostate carcinogenesis among Chinese men." International Journal of Cancer, 2005.

Lycopene: modes of action to promote prostate health.
Arch Biochem Biophys. 2004.
Preclinical studies show that lycopene acts via different mechanisms, which have the potential to cooperate in reducing the proliferation of normal and cancerous prostate epithelial cells, in reducing DNA damage, and in improving oxidative stress defense. The mechanisms include inhibition of prostatic IGF-I signaling, IL-6 expression, and androgen signaling. Moreover, lycopene improves gap-junctional communication and induces phase II drug metabolizing enzymes as well as oxidative defense genes. These findings provide plausible explanations for the epidemiological findings how lycopene can contribute to reduced prostate cancer risk. The novel finding that lycopene reduces local androgen signaling in the prostate suggests also efficacy in prevention of benign prostate hyperplasia. Intervention trials in humans are required to finally prove clinical efficacy of the lycopene molecule in prostate health.

Influence of organic versus conventional agricultural practice on the antioxidant microconstituent content of tomatoes and derived purees; consequences on antioxidant plasma status in humans.
 J Agric Food Chem. 2004.
The present study aims first to compare the antioxidant microconstituent contents between organically and conventionally grown tomatoes and, second, to evaluate whether the consumption of purees made of these tomatoes can differently affect the plasma levels of antioxidant microconstituents in humans. When results were expressed as fresh matter, organic tomatoes had higher vitamin C, carotenoids, and polyphenol contents (except for chlorogenic acid) than conventional tomatoes. When results were expressed as dry matter, no significant difference was found for lycopene and naringenin. In tomato purees, no difference in carotenoid content was found between the two modes of culture, whereas the concentrations of vitamin C and polyphenols remained higher in purees made out of organic tomatoes. For the nutritional intervention, no significant difference (after 3 weeks of consumption of 96 g/day of tomato puree) was found between the two purees with regard to their ability to affect the plasma levels of the two major antioxidants, vitamin C and lycopene.

Comparative multiple dose plasma kinetics of lycopene administered in tomato juice, tomato soup or lycopene tablets.
Eur J Nutr. 2004.
Among other factors the systemic availability of lycopene from natural sources is dependent on release from the cell matrix as achieved by food processing. The purpose of this study was to compare plasma concentration responses of total lycopene and its major isomers to dosing of the carotenoid as tomato juice, tomato soup or tablets containing synthetic lycopene. Intake of lycopene rich food products was restricted throughout this randomized, parallel group study, including 6 volunteers per group. Following a 14 day lycopene depletion phase subjects ingested 20 mg of lycopene daily for 8 days as tomato juice, soup prepared from tomato paste or lycopene tablets. Lycopene plasma concentrations were monitored throughout the depletion and dosing phases and for 22 days post-dosing and kinetics were evaluated using both empirical and compartmental modelling. Irrespective of the lycopene treatment all-E lycopene was the predominant lycopene isomer, whereas 5-Z lycopene was the most abundant Z isomer. Plasma concentration response of total and all-E lycopene to dosing of the carotenoid in tablets and tomato soup was comparable but exceeded that of intake in tomato juice. No differences were noted in dose normalized 5-Z lycopene concentrations between groups. The estimates of efficient half-life were approximately 5 and 9 days for all-E and 5-Z lycopene, respectively. The systemic availability of synthetic lycopene from a tablet formulation is comparable to that observed from processed tomatoes (soup from tomato paste) and superior to that from tomato juice. No differences were observed in disposition kinetics of natural and synthetic lycopene. The synthetic lycopene tablet formulation used in this investigation may be of value for future clinical investigations.

Lycopene synergistically inhibits LDL oxidation in combination with vitamin E, glabridin, rosmarinic acid, carnosic acid, or garlic.
Antioxid Redox Signal. 2000.
This study was conducted to determine the effect of tomato lycopene alone, or in combination with other natural antioxidants, on low-density lipoprotein LDL oxidation. LDL was incubated with increasing concentrations of lycopene or of tomato oleoresin (lipid extract of tomatoes containing 6% lycopene, 0.1% beta-carotene, 1% vitamin E, and polyphenols), after which it was oxidized. Tomato oleoresin exhibited superior capacity to inhibit LDL oxidation in comparison to pure lycopene. Because tomato oleoresin also contains, in addition to lycopene, vitamin E, flavonoids, and phenolics, a possible cooperative interaction between lycopene and such natural antioxidants was studied. A combination of lycopene with vitamin E resulted in an inhibition of copper ion-induced LDL oxidation that was significantly greater than the expected additive individual inhibitions. The synergistic antioxidative effect of lycopene with vitamin E was not shared by gamma-to-cotrienol. The polyphenols glabridin (derived from licorice), rosmarinic acid or carnosic acid (derived from rosemary), as well as garlic (which contains a mixture of natural antioxidants) inhibited LDL oxidation in a dose-dependent manner. When lycopene was added to LDL in combination with glabridin, rosmarinic acid, carnosic acid, or garlic, synergistic antioxidative effects were obtained against LDL oxidation induced either by copper ions or by the radical generator AAPH. Similar interactive effects seen with lycopene were also observed with beta-carotene, but, however, to a lesser extent of synergism. Because natural antioxidants exist in nature in combination, the in vivo relevance of lycopene in combination with other natural antioxidants was studied. Four healthy subjects were administered a fatty meal containing 30 mg of lycopene in the form of tomato oleoresin. The lycopene concentration in postprandial plasma was elevated by 70% in comparison to plasma obtained before meal consumption. Postprandial LDL isolated 5 hr after meal consumption exhibited a significant reduced susceptibility to oxidation by 21%. We conclude that lycopene acts synergistically, as an effective antioxidant against LDL oxidation, with several natural antioxidants such as vitamin E, the flavonoid glabridin, the phenolics rosmarinic acid and carnosic acid, and garlic. These observations suggest a superior antiatherogenic characteristic to a combination of different natural antioxidants over that of an individual one.

Changes in Contents of Carotenoids and Vitamin E during Tomato Processing.
J Agric Food Chem. 2004.
The aim of this study was to investigate the effect of different types of tomato processing on contents of lycopene, beta-carotene, and alpha-tocopherol. Samples of tomato sauce, tomato soup, baked tomato slices, and tomato juice were taken at different times of heating, respectively, after each step of production. Due to the loss of water during thermal processing, contents of lycopene, beta-carotene, and alpha-tocopherol on a wet weight basis increased. On a dry weight basis, contents of lycopene increased or decreased depending on the origin of the tomatoes used, whereas the beta-carotene contents decreased or were quite stable. In contrast to lycopene, beta-carotene isomerized due to thermal processing. The alpha-tocopherol contents significantly rose during short-term heating. The increase was not caused by release of alpha-tocopherol from the seeds containing predominantly gamma-tocopherol and accounting for 2% of total alpha-tocopherol content only.

How Much Lycopene in there in a Tomato?
There is about 5 mg per 100 gram of ripe tomato fruit. Lycopene concentration in tomatoes increases significantly during the ripening process. Lycopene in tomatoes can be absorbed more efficiently by the body if processed into juice, sauce, paste and ketchup. The chemical form found in tomatoes is converted by the temperature changes involved in processing to make it more easily absorbed by the body.

Side effects
Lycopene obtained from eating fruits and vegetables has no known side effects and is thought to be safe for humans. The potential side effects of lycopene supplements are not known.

Availability and Dosage
Lycopene is sold either by itself or often combined in a multivitamin or antioxidant formula. The ideal daily supplement dose is not know. Those who consume a high intake of vegetables and fruits, particularly the ones that have a good amount of lycopene, are not likely to benefit much from supplements. If you do supplement, it is preferable that you also take other carotenoids in order to have a good balance.
     Most pills range from 5 to 20 mg per capsule. I believe a range of 5 to 10 mg taken a few times a week should be adequate for most people. However, if you eat tomato products frequently, or eat watermelon or other fruits and vegetables with a high concentration of lycopene, you would not likely need to take a supplement at all. Most Americans have a high intake of tomato products and may not benefit from a lycopene supplement as much as perhaps people in other countries whose routine diet does not include tomatoes.

Q. I'd like to use the multivitamin - MultiVit Rx, but it contains lycopine from tomato and I have adverse reaction to tomato and some other citric acid fruits. What do you advise?
   A. There are many other compounds in tomato besides lycopene, and if some people have problems with tomato, it is almost always not due to the lycopene, but something else within the tomato. For instance, these same people can eat watermelon which has lots of it.

Is lycopene present in semen?
   Yes, there is some in human semen, the levels of which can be significantly increased after supplementation.