Lycopene is a carotenoid, which gives vegetables (e.g., tomato) and fruits (e.g., pink grapefruit, apricot, and watermelon) their red color (26).

Lycopene is synthesized by plants and microorganisms but not by humans or animals. It is the most predominant carotenoid in human blood, present naturally in greater amounts than beta-carotene and other dietary carotenoids. Because lycopene tends to dissolve in fatty substances, it concentrates in blood lipoproteins and in organs such as  the skin, liver, lungs, and prostate.

Lycopene is not merely a pigment; it is a powerful antioxidant. Given its antioxidant properties, substantial scientific and clinical research has been devoted to a possible correlation between lycopene consumption and general health.

Unlike beta-carotene, lycopene cannot be converted in the body into vitamin A (retinol).

Authored by Dr Peter Engel in 2010, reviewed and revised by Jonas Wittwer Schegg  on 03.10.2017.

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Health functions

In vitro studies indicate that lycopene is one of the most effective antioxidants among carotenoids, potentially preventing deleterious oxidative effects by deactivating singlet oxygen that may play a role in the development of heart disease, cancer and other diseases (1).

Disease risk reduction

Numerous studies correlate high intake of lycopene-containing foods with reduced incidence of cancer and cardiovascular disease, due to its antioxidant potential. Most of the studies are based on reported tomato intake.

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Things to know about Lycopene

  • Intake recommendations

    No dietary reference intake for lycopene has been established.

  • Supply situation

    Currently, there are only very limited lycopene consumption data available.

  • Deficiency

    There is not yet a well-established definition of lycopene deficiency.

  • Sources

    Lycopene gives tomatoes, pink grapefruit, watermelon, and guava their red color. In many countries, the majority of lycopene in the diet comes from tomatoes and tomato products like tomato sauce, tomato paste, and ketchup.

  • Safety

    No unhealthy effects have been reported for lycopene (12).

  • References

    Consult the full list of scientific references.