Lycopene: What Is It? 3 Major Benefits of Lycopene (A Must-Read for Men), Side Effects, and How to Consume It

What is Lycopene?

Lycopene, also known as tomato red, is a natural pigment belonging to the carotenoid family. It imparts the vibrant red color to many fruits and vegetables. One of its most common sources is tomatoes, but it can also be found in other plants like carrots and red watermelon. Lycopene is a potent antioxidant that helps prevent cell damage and is believed to have health benefits related to conditions like hypertension, hyperlipidemia, and cancer[1].

Lycopene works by reducing the generation of reactive oxygen species (ROS), lowering oxidative stress, inhibiting inflammatory factors such as TNF-α, IL-6, and IL-1β, and activating antioxidant responses, including increasing the body’s antioxidant enzymes such as superoxide dismutase (SOD) and glutathione peroxidase (GSH-Px)[2].

Which Foods Contain Lycopene?

The content of lycopene in foods can be influenced by factors such as ripeness, variety, and cultivation methods. However, incorporating foods rich in lycopene into your daily diet can contribute to your overall lycopene intake. According to the USDA National Nutrient Database for Standard Reference, foods that contain lycopene include the following:

Food Lycopene Content (per 100g)
Tomatoes Approximately 3 mg
Carrots Approximately 0.3 mg
Watermelon Approximately 4 mg
Shrimp Approximately 1 mg
Red Bell Peppers Approximately 0.3 mg
Tomato Sauce Approximately 15 mg
Tomato Juice Approximately 8 mg
Blueberries Approximately 0.6 mg
Strawberries Approximately 0.2 mg
Raspberries Approximately 0.5 mg

Lycopene Benefits

Lycopene possesses excellent anti-inflammatory and antioxidant properties. Currently, in international research, lycopene is found to have the following benefits:

1. Prostate Health

An integrated analysis of 26 trials suggests that a higher intake of lycopene shows a trend towards a lower risk of prostate cancer (or known as prostate cancer) occurrence (P=0.078), with the threshold falling between daily intake of 9 to 21 milligrams. [4]
Furthermore, another integrated study of 42 trials also found a significant and linear relationship between lycopene intake in the diet and a reduced risk of prostate cancer occurrence. For each additional intake of 2 milligrams of lycopene, the risk of prostate cancer occurrence decreases by 1% (P=0.026). However, this correlation was not observed in advanced prostate cancer. [5]

2.Male Fertility Support

Male sperm is highly sensitive to oxidative stress, and reactive oxygen species (ROS) can induce lipid peroxidation and sperm DNA fragmentation, leading to damage in sperm cell membrane DNA. [6]

In a study involving 44 males with oligozoospermia (low sperm count), participants were randomly assigned to two groups and given a placebo or 25 milligrams of lycopene daily for 12 weeks. The results showed a significant increase in both sperm count and concentration in the lycopene group. [7]

3.Cardiovascular Health

Studies suggest that lycopene’s protective effect on the heart is due to its antioxidant properties, which can safeguard against myocardial hypertrophy and endothelial damage caused by reactive oxygen species (ROS) and oxidative stress. [2]

In a clinical trial involving 61 hypertensive patients, it was found that daily supplementation with 15 milligrams and 30 milligrams of lycopene both led to reductions in systolic blood pressure. However, the groups receiving 5 milligrams of lycopene and synthetic lycopene at 15 milligrams did not show the same results. [8]

In another randomized clinical trial with 36 patients diagnosed with coronary heart disease and 36 healthy subjects, participants were given either 7 milligrams of lycopene or a placebo daily for two months. The results of the study indicated a significant 53% improvement in endothelial-dependent vasodilation in the group of coronary heart disease patients who received lycopene supplementation compared to the placebo group. [9]

A retrospective study focusing on cardiovascular risk factors has indicated that supplementing with lycopene or tomatoes can significantly reduce low-density lipoprotein cholesterol (LDL-C), the inflammatory cytokine IL-6, systolic blood pressure, and improve endothelial function (flow-mediated dilation, FMD). [10]

How to Consume Lycopene? Recommended Intake and Timing

There are currently no specific daily recommended intake values for lycopene. However, in general, you can incorporate a variety of fruits and vegetables rich in carotenoids, including lycopene, into your daily diet.

  1. Diverse Diet: Include a variety of colorful vegetables and fruits to ensure you get a wide range of nutrients, including lycopene. It’s not just lycopene; other plant compounds and nutrients are also beneficial for your health.
  2. Daily Consumption: Try to consume foods containing lycopene daily to maintain a balanced diet. Lycopene-rich foods often exhibit their reddish color due to the presence of lycopene. So, opting for colorful fruits and vegetables may contain more lycopene.
  3. Fat Assistance: Lycopene is fat-soluble, meaning it’s better absorbed when consumed with some healthy fats, such as olive oil, nuts, or fish oil. You can achieve this by adding some oil-based salad dressings or cooking with oil.
  4. Timing of Consumption: Lycopene does not have specific timing requirements. You can consume lycopene-rich foods at any time of the day.

Does Lycopene Have Side Effects?

Excessive supplementation of lycopene can lead to its deposition in the skin’s stratum corneum, causing the skin to turn yellow or orange. However, this discoloration will gradually improve once lycopene supplementation is stopped.[3]

Who Should Consider Increasing Lycopene Intake?

Lycopene is a beneficial nutrient for many individuals, but it may be particularly suitable for the following groups:

  1. Middle-aged and older men: As men age, they may be more susceptible to the effects of free radical damage and oxidative stress, and they may face conditions such as prostate enlargement. Lycopene’s antioxidant properties may help mitigate these issues.
  2. Individuals with cardiovascular health concerns: For those dealing with heart disease and cardiovascular problems, lycopene is believed to lower the risk of heart disease, improve vascular function, and reduce blood pressure. Therefore, individuals with cardiovascular health concerns may consider increasing their lycopene intake.
  3. Athletes and fitness enthusiasts: Lycopene may assist in reducing post-exercise oxidative stress and aiding in post-workout recovery for those involved in sports and fitness activities.
  4. Those concerned about reproductive health: Some studies suggest that lycopene may benefit male reproductive health, including its impact on sperm count and quality.


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