Last updated: August 30, 2021

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Everyone knows that a healthy diet is essential for our body. However, many of us still prefer to rejoice in junk fooad rather than a beautiful plate of fresh veggies at the end of a hard day of work. So, does this common habit negatively affect our ability to age healthily?

Lycopene is an antioxidant present in popular fruits and vegetables, such as tomatoes and papaya. While its daily consumption has been linked to a reduced risk of degenerative diseases, Western diets are increasingly poor in this nutrient. Are you ready to learn everything there is to know about lycopene?




Summary

  • This plant pigment of the carotenoid family has antioxidant properties.
  • The best sources of lycopene are red fruits and vegetables, such as tomatoes. Its absorption is increased with cooking and the use of oil.
  • There are various factors to consider before purchasing your own lycopene supplement. These include your dietary needs, the origin of the ingredients, and the presence of other compounds, among others.

The best Lycopene: Our Picks

We have searched far and wide to select the best lycopene supplements currently available out there. In the following section, you will find out more about these products and what makes each stand out from the wide range of options on the market. Keep reading and you might just find the right supplement for your needs.

Shopping Guide: Everything You Should Know About Lycopene

Lycopene is a plant pigment with antioxidant properties that should abound in a balanced diet. Since the consumption of this molecule has been linked to fewer illnesses such as cancer, it is essential to maintain healthy levels in our organism. In the section below, we have answered the most frequently asked questions regarding lycopene so you can understand why it is vital.

biting a watermelon

Lycopene is responsible for the red color in tomatoes, peppers, and watermelons.
(Source: Mandic: 103722374/ 123rf.com)

What is lycopene exactly?

This antioxidant substance belonging to the group of carotenes possesses the same atoms as the precursor of vitamin A (beta-carotene). However, its structural difference confers unique properties to lycopene. It is produced exclusively by plants, giving certain fruits and vegetables (such as tomatoes) their characteristic red color (1).

The molecular structure of lycopene reacts to the presence of the ill-natured free radicals, substances linked to premature aging and tissue damage. By capturing the excess of free radicals, this antioxidant could prevent the appearance of a large number of diseases that result from oxidative damage.

This is why some experts suggest consuming this plant pigment as part of a strategy to avoid these diseases. Indeed, they insist that a diet including fruits and vegetables (rich in lycopene and other antioxidants), regular physical activity, and quitting smoking could prevent up to 70% of premature deaths (2).

fruit papaya

Ongoing research is investigating the benefits of lycopene on prostate tissue.
(Source: Pustynnikova: 87720672/ 123rf.com)

What foods contain lycopene?

Lycopene is associated with the red and orange pigmentation of fruits and vegetables such as tomatoes, papaya, watermelon, and pink grapefruit. However, despite the color of strawberries, cherries, and other berries, these fruits do not contain this antioxidant.

You can easily have a sufficient consumption of lycopene if you follow the recommendations of health experts (2), who recommend a daily intake of about 400 grams of fruit and vegetables. Your diet should include foods rich in this antioxidant, which you can find in the following table (3):

Food (100 grams) Approximate lycopene content (milligrams)
Guava 5
Watermelon 4.5
Tomato 3
Papaya 2
Pink grapefruit 1.5

Other foods, such as red cabbage, red pepper, or asparagus, contain almost negligible amounts of lycopene when eaten fresh. Surprisingly, cooking these foods will increase your organism's absorption of this antioxidant, which will then provide a greater amount of lycopene per 100 grams.

If you are looking to boost the lycopene content that reaches your blood, you can, therefore, cook a variety of dishes that include these foods. This is especially true for tomatoes; you can double the amount of lycopene they provide by frying, boiling, or baking them. In addition, combining them with oil (preferably olive or sunflower) will also increase your absorption.

What are the benefits of lycopene?

Several studies have linked the consumption of high-enough amounts of this antioxidant to a reduced risk of various conditions associated with aging, such as cardiovascular diseases and the development of certain tumors (2). We have detailed these benefits in the list below:

  • Cardiovascular health: A reduction in "bad" cholesterol (LDL) and triglycerides has been observed in individuals who consumed between 20 and 40 milligrams of lycopene per day. In addition, the antioxidant effect of this substance may prevent the oxidation of lipids and their subsequent deposition in the form of cholesterol plaques on the artery walls (4).
  • Photoprotection: Studies on lycopene have demonstrated that this compound is deposited in skin cells. It may capture solar radiation more efficiently and protect your skin against photoaging. Further research is required to confirm these promising results (5).
  • Skin texture: Lycopene supplementation has been associated with improved skin texture and smoothness.
  • Eye health: Consumption of this antioxidant may slow down the progression of the leading cause of blindness in the elderly, age-related macular degeneration (AMD) (6).
  • Mental health: Small and punctual studies (1) have found that lycopene could contribute to improving several neurological pathologies, such as Alzheimer's disease. In addition, one study linked low lycopene levels in the blood to an increased frequency of psychiatric disorders, such as depression and anxiety.
  • Prostate health: The prostate, a gland in the male reproductive system, can enlarge (hypertrophy), causing urinary retention and a possible increased risk of cancer in the future. Lycopene consumption has been associated with a lower frequency of prostate pathologies (1, 7, 8).
  • Cancer prevention: A healthy diet with enough lycopene has been linked to a decrease in the frequency of occurrence of certain types of cancer (primarily lung, breast, prostate, and kidney).

Regarding this last point, we want to emphasize on the fact that cancer encompasses multiple diseases whose mechanism is often unknown. To this day, it is impossible to guarantee that any given molecule can protect against the appearance of these mutations. The best way to prevent cancer remains to lead an active life, eat a healthy diet, and avoid drugs and other toxins (2, 9).

Lycopene is indeed a molecule with enormous antioxidant potential. However, many of its most remarkable benefits need to be examined more closely to understand to what extent they could truly influence the human body. We have ordered the potential properties of lycopene according to the level of scientific evidence:

High or moderate evidence More data required
Antioxidant effect Relief of prostatic hypertrophy
Lower frequency of cardiovascular disease Improved eye health
Reduced inflammation Improvement of skin texture
Reduction of fatty acid oxidation Protection of the skin against photoaging
Neuronal protection
Reduced frequency of tumor diseases

How should I use my lycopene supplements?

The consumption of fruits and vegetables will not only provide you with lycopene, but also with vitamins, minerals, and other antioxidants essential for maintaining good health. However, you may not be able to do so if you have any of the following conditions:

  • You follow an excessively restrictive weight-loss diet;
  • Your lack of appetite makes it challenging for you to reach your daily calorie requirements;
  • You suffer from higher-than-normal levels of oxidation and inflammation. This is often the result of unhealthy habits or periods of intense stress).
A balanced diet is primordial.

If this is your case, you could opt for a lycopene supplement for an adequate intake of this antioxidant. Luckily for you, dietary products from this plant pigment are very safe and easy to use. Here are some tips from nutrition experts (10):

  • What is the recommended dose? There is no consensus on the daily allowance for lycopene supplementation, with amounts ranging from 7 to 70 milligrams per day. In general, most manufacturers recommend taking between 10 and 30 grams of lycopene twice a day.
  • With or without food? You are advised to consume it together with meals to improve its bioavailability.
  • When will I notice its effects? As of today, there is no defined period until you can start witnessing the results of lycopene supplementation. In any case, note that most products take between 30 and 60 days to show their first effects. Experts have confirmed that it can be used safely for up to 360 days continuously.

You will find lycopene supplements in the form of capsules, tablets, and pills. In addition, this antioxidant is also available in liquid form dissolved in olive oil to increase its bioavailability. That being said, lycopene is most often found as part of multivitamin supplements.

What precautions should I take while using lycopene?

One of the major perks of these supplements is that they are incredibly safe, with virtually no drug interaction known. The most common side effects are linked to digestive intolerance (nausea, intestinal heaviness, and flatulence). However, they can easily be avoided by lowering the dose or dividing it into several intakes throughout the day.

There have been no reports of poisoning as a result of excessive lycopene supplementation to this date. You may notice that your skin turns orangish if you consume too much of this pigment. While it may seem unattractive, this effect is completely harmless and will disappear once you stop supplementing with lycopene (10).

That being said, keep in mind that any foreign substance has the potential to cause undesirable side effects if misused. Please pay attention to the following list of contraindications and avoid using lycopene if you belong to any of the population groups mentioned below:

  • People undergoing cancer treatment: The antioxidant properties of lycopene may interfere with the actions of cancer treatments. You are not advised to use it during cycles of chemotherapy or radiotherapy sessions (11).
  • Individuals allergic to lycopene: People with allergies to tomato, papaya, guava, or any other lycopene-rich food may have reactions while supplementing. They should avoid its use.
  • People with coagulation troubles: This carotenoid may have a mild anticoagulant effect, which is why a doctor should supervise its consumption by individuals with coagulation disorders. In addition, lycopene supplementation should be discontinued at least two weeks before any surgery during which bleeding is expected.
  • Pregnant and breastfeeding women: One study has linked the consumption of lycopene supplements during pregnancy with an increase in premature births; therefore, you should absolutely avoid its use. This molecule is excreted in breast milk and should not be taken during the nursing period either (10).
  • Children: You should never give dietary supplements to minors without careful medical supervision.

elder couple at kitchen

Lycopene supplements may improve the texture of your skin.
(Source: Polc: 90263590/ 123rf.com)

Buyer's Guide

We hope that we have solved any doubts you might have had regarding this antioxidant. If you are ready to start supplementing with lycopene, please pay attention to the final section of our guide. We will introduce you to the main shopping criteria that you should evaluate when browsing the market. That way, you will know how to identify the lycopene supplement that best suits your needs.

Dietary Requirements

Since lycopene is 100% of plant origin, the vast majority of these supplements will be suitable for vegan and vegetarian individuals. If you opt for capsules, simply verify that they do not contain any animal gelatin. If you are gluten- or lactose-intolerant, look for quality seals of approval that guarantee the absence of these allergens.

fruits in a basket

Excessive consumption of lycopene may confer an orange tone to the skin.
(Source: -Thanh Thu Thai: 97704901/ 123rf.com)

Organic Farming

The consumption of pesticides is never good for your body, which is why you should choose a supplement that contains lycopene extracted from organically farmed ingredients. In addition, certain products may contain genetically modified organisms; if you are uncomfortable with this, keep an eye out for the GMO-free seal on the packaging.

Ingredient Combinations

As we mentioned earlier, lycopene is often combined with other ingredients in multivitamin supplements. These include other antioxidant compounds such as vitamins A, C, and E, as well as other carotenes. Most people can opt for these multivitamin products to reap the joined benefits of their different components, with the cost being the only limiting factor.

However, you should be more cautious regarding the use of these combined supplements if you are a smoker. Beta-carotene, an ingredient often used with lycopene, has been linked to an increased incidence of lung cancer in smokers. In that case, we recommend you purchase a supplement only containing lycopene.

Tomato pizza can be part of a healthy diet! Consumed in moderation, it will provide a useful amount of lycopene.

Conservation & Shelf Life

Lycopene supplements consumed after their expiration date are not dangerous to your health. However, the effect of dietary products is generally reduced or disappears entirely once its recommended consumption date has passed. You can extend the shelf life of your lycopene supplement by storing it in a cool, dry place, away from aggressive odors and direct sunlight.

Summary

Antioxidants are one of the cornerstones of a healthy diet and are associated with a longer disease-free life expectancy. Among these compounds, we find lycopene, a nutrient that is often underestimated and forgotten despite the fact that adequate levels of this pigment are essential for staying healthy longer.

If you opt for lycopene supplements, you will be investing a healthier social, physical, and mental life. In addition, they will contribute to avoiding severe health conditions in the future. If you have trouble reaching the recommended allowance of lycopene in your diet, supplementing will help you tip the balance in favor of your well-being. Are you ready to take real care of your health?

Did you enjoy our shopping guide on this carotenoid? Feel free to give us your opinion in the section below, and don't forget to share this article on your social media!

(Featured Image Source: Shebek: 22366268/ 123rf.com)

References (11)

1. Barrie R. Cassileth, MS P. Lycopene. 2010 [cited 2019 Dec 2];
Source

2. Lycopene Uses, Benefits & Dosage - Drugs.com Herbal Database [Internet]. [cited 2019 Dec 2].
Source

3. Story EN, Kopec RE, Schwartz SJ, Harris GK. An Update on the Health Effects of Tomato Lycopene. Annu Rev Food Sci Technol [Internet]. 2010 Apr [cited 2019 Dec 2];1(1):189–210.
Source

4. Chen P, Zhang W, Wang X, Zhao K, Negi DS, Zhuo L, et al. Lycopene and Risk of Prostate Cancer. Medicine (Baltimore) [Internet]. 2015 Aug 1 [cited 2019 Dec 2];94(33):e1260.
Source

5. Ilic D, Misso M. Lycopene for the prevention and treatment of benign prostatic hyperplasia and prostate cancer: A systematic review. Maturitas [Internet]. 2012 Aug [cited 2019 Dec 2];72(4):269–76.
Source

6. Schleicher M, Weikel K, Garber C, Taylor A. Diminishing Risk for Age-Related Macular Degeneration with Nutrition: A Current View. Nutrients [Internet]. 2013 Jul 2 [cited 2019 Dec 2];5(7):2405–56.
Source

7. Petyaev IM, Pristensky D V., Morgunova EY, Zigangirova NA, Tsibezov V V., Chalyk NE, et al. Lycopene presence in facial skin corneocytes and sebum and its association with circulating lycopene isomer profile: Effects of age and dietary supplementation. Food Sci Nutr [Internet]. 2019 Apr 13 [cited 2019 Dec 2];7(4):1157–65.
Source

8. Mozos I, Stoian D, Caraba A, Malainer C, Horbanczuk JO, Atanasov AG. Lycopene and vascular health [Internet]. Vol. 9, Frontiers in Pharmacology. Frontiers Media S.A.; 2018 [cited 2019 Dec 2].
Source

9. FoodData Central [Internet]. [cited 2019 Oct 12].
Source

10. Bojórquez RMC, Gallego JG, Collado PS. Propiedades funcionales y beneficios para la salud del licopeno [Internet]. Vol. 28, Nutricion Hospitalaria. 2013 [cited 2019 Dec 2]. p. 6–15.
Source

11. S. Agarwal AVR. Tomato lycopene and its role in human health and chronic diseases. Postharvest Biol Technol [Internet]. 2004 Dec 19 [cited 2019 Dec 2];34(3):227–35.
Source

Diario médico
Barrie R. Cassileth, MS P. Lycopene. 2010 [cited 2019 Dec 2];
Go to source
Web oficial
Lycopene Uses, Benefits & Dosage - Drugs.com Herbal Database [Internet]. [cited 2019 Dec 2].
Go to source
Artículo de revisión
Story EN, Kopec RE, Schwartz SJ, Harris GK. An Update on the Health Effects of Tomato Lycopene. Annu Rev Food Sci Technol [Internet]. 2010 Apr [cited 2019 Dec 2];1(1):189–210.
Go to source
Artículo científico
Chen P, Zhang W, Wang X, Zhao K, Negi DS, Zhuo L, et al. Lycopene and Risk of Prostate Cancer. Medicine (Baltimore) [Internet]. 2015 Aug 1 [cited 2019 Dec 2];94(33):e1260.
Go to source
Artículo científico
Ilic D, Misso M. Lycopene for the prevention and treatment of benign prostatic hyperplasia and prostate cancer: A systematic review. Maturitas [Internet]. 2012 Aug [cited 2019 Dec 2];72(4):269–76.
Go to source
Artículo de revisión
Schleicher M, Weikel K, Garber C, Taylor A. Diminishing Risk for Age-Related Macular Degeneration with Nutrition: A Current View. Nutrients [Internet]. 2013 Jul 2 [cited 2019 Dec 2];5(7):2405–56.
Go to source
Ensayo clínico
Petyaev IM, Pristensky D V., Morgunova EY, Zigangirova NA, Tsibezov V V., Chalyk NE, et al. Lycopene presence in facial skin corneocytes and sebum and its association with circulating lycopene isomer profile: Effects of age and dietary supplementation. Food Sci Nutr [Internet]. 2019 Apr 13 [cited 2019 Dec 2];7(4):1157–65.
Go to source
Artículo de revisión
Mozos I, Stoian D, Caraba A, Malainer C, Horbanczuk JO, Atanasov AG. Lycopene and vascular health [Internet]. Vol. 9, Frontiers in Pharmacology. Frontiers Media S.A.; 2018 [cited 2019 Dec 2].
Go to source
Web oficial
FoodData Central [Internet]. [cited 2019 Oct 12].
Go to source
Artículo de revisión
Bojórquez RMC, Gallego JG, Collado PS. Propiedades funcionales y beneficios para la salud del licopeno [Internet]. Vol. 28, Nutricion Hospitalaria. 2013 [cited 2019 Dec 2]. p. 6–15.
Go to source
Artículo de revisión
S. Agarwal AVR. Tomato lycopene and its role in human health and chronic diseases. Postharvest Biol Technol [Internet]. 2004 Dec 19 [cited 2019 Dec 2];34(3):227–35.
Go to source
Reviews