Lycopene is one of the more well-known types of carotenoids found in the body. Lycopene is oil-soluble and absorbed better when eaten with some fat-containing food. Your lycopene absorption may be impaired by a diet that is extremely low in fat or if you have a medical condition that causes a reduction in your ability to absorb dietary fat.
Lycopene offers even more protection from oxidation of LDL-cholesterol and cancer than beta carotene. In fact, some of the benefits once attributed to beta carotene may in fact come from lycopene instead. Because the carotenoids work together as well as with other antioxidants in the body, it's sometime difficult to distinguish which benefits can be attributed to any single antioxidant.
Lycopene Supplements and Cancer Prevention. While there is evidence that eating tomatoes regularly helps prevent prostate cancer, it is not yet clear whether the risk reduction is related to lycopene itself or other compounds in tomatoes. Several studies found that men with high intakes of lycopene from tomatoes were less likely to develop prostate cancer than than men with low intakes.
Lycopene has been shown to help prevent other cancers as well, including lung, stomach, colon and breast cancer. Lycopene helps prevent tumor formation by slowing down or blocking DNA synthesis within cancer cells that would otherwise make the cells reproduce.
One of the ways that lycopene may limit tumor growth is by stimulating cell to cell communication. Researchers now believe that poor communication between cells is one of the causes of the abnormal growth of cells, a condition which ultimately leads to the development of cancerous tumors.
Lycopene Supplements and Heart Disease Prevention. Lycopene is also believed to play a role in the prevention of heart disease by preventing free radical damage to LDL cholesterol. This is actually the true cause of heart disease.
Go to the page on What Causes Heart Disease?
to get the full story about cholesterol and heart disease.
Lycopene may be beneficial in the prevention and/or treatment of the following health conditions:
Tomatoes are the only good source of lycopene in foods. Cooking releases the lycopene from the tomato fibers, so it's best to get lycopene in tomato sauce or paste. However, not everyone wants to include cooked tomatoes in their everyday diet — we're not all Italian! Fortunately for the rest of us who want the benefits of lycopene, supplements are available in capsule form.
The Recommended Daily Allowance for lycopene is about 6.5 mg. per day. Below is a list of lycopene content of foods:
As you can see, unless you eat dishes with tomato sauce frequently, it's tough to get an adequate intake of lycopene without supplementing. By the way, vine-ripened tomatoes generally have a higher lycopene content than tomatoes ripened off the vine.
Lycopene is often combined in a supplement with saw
palmetto and other nutrients beneficial for prostate health. Prostate cancer is the second most common type of cancer in males. Doctor's Best make an excellent version which includes beta-sitosterol, zinc, selenium and several herbs known to promote prostate health.
A high intake of lycopene supplements is not known to cause any harmful side effects. Lycopene supplements typically come in 5, 10 or 15 mg. potencies. Excessive consumption of lycopene can cause a deep orange discoloration of the skin, a harmless condition called lycopenodermia.
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