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5 Benefits and Side Effects of Lycopene (The Second One is Often Asked) [Updated Feb/2023]

Lycopene is a naturally occurring chemical that gives fruits and vegetables a red color. It is one of a number of pigments called carotenoids. Lycopene is found in tomatoes, watermelons, red oranges, pink grapefruits, apricots, rosehips, and guavas. In North America, 85% of dietary lycopene comes from tomato products such as ketchup, tomato juice, sauce, or paste. A serving of fresh tomatoes contains between 4 mg and 10 mg of lycopene, while one cup (240 mL) of tomato juice provides about 20 mg. Processing raw tomatoes using heat (in the making of tomato juice, tomato paste or ketchup, for example) actually changes the lycopene in the raw product into a form that is easier for the body to use. The lycopene in supplements is about as easy for the body to use as lycopene found in food.

Lycopene is a fat-soluble natural antioxidant in fruits and vegetables. Its antioxidant effect is twice that of β-carotene and 10 times that of vitamin E. It also gives plants a bright red appearance (common in tomatoes, watermelon, guava, Cranberry, papaya)

In the past few decades, foods containing lycopene have also been proven to have the effect of preventing diseases and anti-aging, and can reduce the risk of cancer and cardiovascular diseases. It is one of the most important contributions of the Mediterranean diet (recognized as the healthiest diet in the world).

 

What are the recommended scientifically proven benefits of lycopene?

  1. Improve cardiovascular disease factors

For a long time, cardiovascular disease has been regarded as a male-predominant disease, especially for younger people (compared to females, the incidence of males is 2 to 5 times higher).

But as age grows, especially after the age of 50, the morbidity rate of women will rise sharply (due to loss of endogenous estrogen protection), especially myocardial infarction

Clinically, it has also been found that women’s symptoms of acute myocardial infarction are often different from those of men. Abdominal pain, dyspnea, nausea, back and neck pain, indigestion, palpitations, and fatigue may occur in women. It is not generally considered chest pain, which often causes delays.

A general literature review and meta-analysis (meta-analysis of 21 controlled studies with 1189 participants) pointed out that tomato intake helped improve LDL-cholesterol, interleukin-6 (IL-6), and flow-mediated dilation, while lycopene supplementation helped reduce systolic blood pressure pressure)。 Note 1

*Conclusion: Tomato products and lycopene may have positive effects on blood lipids, blood pressure and endothelial function, but limited by the small sample size, more long-term large trials are still needed for further verification

  1. Reduce the occurrence of Prostate Cancer

Prostate cancer is the second most common cancer and the fifth leading cause of death in men, with 1.1 million prostate cancer patients diagnosed worldwide each year, accounting for 15% of all cancer diagnoses in men and 6.6% of all cancer deaths in men.

Many epidemiological factors such as age, sex, ethnicity, genetics, lifestyle, geography, and diet are thought to be associated with the development of prostate cancer, and Western dietary patterns that consume large amounts of red or processed meat, fried foods, chips, high-fat milk and white bread are associated with a higher risk of prostate cancer

A Cochrane Database of Systematic Reviews (3 randomized controlled trials, 154 participants) states that there is currently insufficient evidence to support or refute the use of lycopene to prevent prostate cancer, improve prostate symptoms, and reduce PSA levels. Note 2

*Conclusion: To date, there is no clear evidence to support the prevention of prostate cancer with lycopene supplementation, and more precisely designed long-term large-scale trials are needed to further validate

  1. Improve periodontal disease

Periodontal disease is an inflammatory disease of the tissues surrounding the teeth. About 40%-90% of the world’s population is affected. It can be said to be one of the most common epidemics.

Periodontal disease is mainly caused by certain microorganisms, which cause progressive damage to periodontal ligaments and alveolar bones and deepening of periodontal pockets. If not properly treated, the most serious cause is tooth loss.

A randomized, double-blind, placebo-controlled study (2-month study of 42 patients with chronic periodontal disease) randomly divided participants into two groups, a trial group (8 mg lycopene per day) and a placebo group, supplemented by scaling and periodontal leveling.

The results showed that lycopene had a better effect than placebo on parameters related to periodontal disease (such as plaque index, bleeding, gum index, depth of exploration, and tumor necrosis factor), but some values were not statistically significant. Note 3

*Conclusion: Lycopene combined with non-surgical periodontal disease treatment can bring positive help to improve the condition, but limited by the small sample size, more long-term large trials are still needed for further verification.

  1. Reduce the risk of stomach cancer

Gastric cancer ranks 4th among common cancers and 2nd among cancer-related death rates. The incidence of men is about 2 to 3 times that of women.

The occurrence of gastric cancer is significantly associated with Helicobacter pylori infection, diet, lifestyle and genetics.

A meta-analysis (17 epidemiological studies) suggested that a higher intake of tomato-related products was associated with a lower risk of stomach cancer. Note 4

The mechanism behind it is related to the antioxidant effect of lycopene, carotenoids and vitamin C rich in tomatoes.

*Conclusion: Ingestion of tomato-related products is associated with a lower incidence of gastric cancer, but more research is needed to confirm whether additional lycopene supplementation is helpful

  1. Good for male infertility

Infertility, defined as the inability to achieve a clinical pregnancy after 12 months or more of regular unprotected sexual intercourse, has a worldwide prevalence of approximately 15% and more than 50% of cases are related to the male factor, of which approximately 25% of male infertility causes are idiopathic.

Various psychological and environmental factors, such as age, environmental and occupational pollution, ionizing radiation, heavy metals, toxic chemicals, inadequate nutrient intake, lifestyle changes, exposure to toxins, oxidative stress, depression and anxiety, have been implicated in the development of infertility

A randomized, double-blind, placebo-controlled clinical trial (12 weeks, 44 men with oligospermia) showed that lycopene supplementation (25 mg daily) improved semen parameters (including: sperm count, concentration, motility, ejaculation volume) and increased total antioxidant capacity. Note 5

Alternatively, a randomized, double-blind, placebo-controlled trial (12-week trial of 60 healthy male participants) showed that lycopene supplementation (14 mg per day) improved sperm motility and morphology. Note 6

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*Conclusion: Lycopene supplementation may have a positive effect on male infertility, but limited by the small sample size, more long-term large trials with precise design are still needed to support it.

 

What are the side effects of lycopene?

Up to now, there are still few reports on the side effects of lycopene health products alone, but the intake of lycopene from natural foods is extremely safe, and possible adverse reactions include allergies, diarrhea, nausea, stomach cramps, and vomiting (mostly occurring in those who are allergic to tomatoes or related products or have poor gastrointestinal function)

 

Safety Precautions

1. Excessive consumption may cause hypotension, so be careful if you have low blood pressure or take blood pressure-lowering drugs.

2. There may be anticoagulant effects, so patients with coagulation disorders or taking related anticoagulant drugs should be careful.

3. Be careful when using estrogen or related hormonal therapy, as unexpected interactions may occur.

4. Prostate cancer patients should note that lycopene may interfere with the test results.

5. Excessive intake of lycopene-rich plants may cause yellowing of the skin, most of which are harmless, and will return to normal after stopping use.

6. Do not use by pregnant women, nursing mothers, children, liver and kidney dysfunction (due to unknown safety).