Medically reviewed on June 7, 2018
What is Lycopene?
Lycopene is a common carotenoid compound found in fruits, vegetables, and green plants that is responsible for the red color of tomatoes. Other sources include apricot, cranberry, grapes, pink grapefruit, guava, papaya, peaches, and watermelon.
What is it used for?
In North America, nearly 85% of dietary lycopene is derived from tomatoes and tomato-based products. Tomatoes have been cultivated since the 16th century as a food source. In some countries, the tomato was thought to be poisonous and used for decorative purposes only. Christopher Columbus may have learned of the nutritional benefits of fruits and tomatoes from the inhabitants of the New World. There is a large body of evidence documenting the health benefits of lycopene, as well as its biological activity in numerous human diseases.
Scientific literature documents lycopene’s antioxidant activity and its use in cancer prevention (breast and prostate), as well as its use in the prevention of heart/blood vessel disease.
What is the recommended dosage?
Lycopene administered as a pure compound has been studied in clinical trials at dosages of 8 to 75 mg/day. Lycopene is mostly available in capsule and softgel form, with dosage guidelines from manufacturers ranging from 10 to 30 mg taken twice daily with meals. Lycopene is also incorporated in multivitamin and multimineral products.
Avoid if allergic to lycopene or to any of its food sources, especially tomatoes. Tomato-based products are acidic and may irritate stomach ulcers.
Information regarding safety and efficacy in pregnancy and lactation is lacking. The amount of lycopene in foods is assumed to be safe. Tomato consumption increases lycopene concentrations in the breast milk and blood of breast-feeding women.
None well documented.
In general, tomato-based products and lycopene supplements are generally well tolerated. The scientific literature documents some GI complaints, such as diarrhea, stomach problems, gas, nausea, and vomiting. One trial reported a cancer-related hemorrhage in a patient taking lycopene, although whether it was caused by lycopene was unclear.