What is lycopene?

Lycopene is a nutrient compound that gives tomatoes and other fruits and vegetables (watermelon, carrots, pink grapefruit, papaya, etc.) their red color. Lycopene is classified as a carotenoid, like beta and alpha-carotenes, but is not converted to vitamin A in the body. Lycopene is a very powerful antioxidant and although lycopene is not an essential nutrient, recently researchers have come to believe lycopene may be very important to human health. Lycopene is the most effective carotenoid at quenching the free radical singlet oxygen and the intake of lycopene is associated with a significantly lower risk for prostate cancer, a leading cause of cancer death in the United States. Lycopene may also protect against heart disease and other cancers. The intake of lycopene from supplements also increases the level of lycopene in humans. Conclusions from a growing collection of placebo-controlled trials suggest that consumption of lycopene (either as a dietary supplement or in the form of processed tomatoes) can reduce DNA damage and may have beneficial effects on prostate cancer. Tomatoes are one of the best food sources of lycopene, however, lycopene is more bio-available from processed tomato products such as ketchup, tomato juice and pizza sauce than the fresh, whole food. Most everyone may benefit by including lycopene-containing foods in their diet because the foods themselves are healthful. If you are looking to increase the lycopene levels in your body, supplementing ~10mgs/day offers a viable solution if food is not an option.

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