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The Health Benefits Of Lycopene.
By: Patrick Mansfield | U.S. Health Alerts


The Health Benefits of Lycopene.

Lycopene, a naturally occurring chemical in the carotenoid family, is responsible for the beautiful red color of certain fruits and vegetables. It can be found in watermelons, pink grapefruits, apricots, and pink guavas. Most notably, tomatoes and tomato products are loaded with lycopene. 

85% of dietary lycopene in the United States comes from tomato products. One cup of tomato juice provides around 23 mg of lycopene. Heating raw tomatoes (common during processing ketchup, tomato paste, or tomato juice) actually transforms the lycopene into a form that is easier for the body to absorb. Lycopene found in supplements absorbs about as well as lycopene found in food. 

Lycopene health benefits and uses span a wide range including:
  • Preventing heart disease and atherosclerosis (hardening of the arteries)
  • Reducing the risk of prostate, bladder, breast, lung, ovarian, colon, and pancreatic cancer
  • Treating HPV infection (which can cause uterine cancer)
  • Cataracts
  • Asthma
  • Effectiveness
The Natural Medicines Comprehensive Database rates supplements and holistic remedies based on scientific evidence. Their scale is as follows: Effective, Likely Effective, Possibly Effective, Possibly Ineffective, Likely Ineffective, Ineffective, and Insufficient Evidence to Rate.

Insufficient Evidence

Atherosclerosis- Certain evidence shows a correlation between high blood levels of lycopene and a reduced risk of atherosclerosis and heart disease. Unfortunately, there does not appear to be a connection between high lycopene levels and a lower risk of stroke. 

Benign prostatic hypertrophy- Preliminary research indicates that lycopene may slow the progression of prostate enlargement and improve symptoms. However, the additional research found no correlation between lycopene intake and prostate enlargement issues. 

Heart disease- Some studies show a link between women with higher blood levels of lycopene and a lower risk of heart disease. However, other research has shown no link between the two. In addition, higher levels of lycopene do not appear to prevent heart attacks in men with a low risk of heart disease. 

High cholesterol -Preliminary studies show that particular lycopene supplements (LycoRed, Jagsonpal Pharmaceuticals) may lower total and bad cholesterol (LDL) and increase good cholesterol (HDL) when taken daily for 6 months. However, other research has failed to find a link. 

High blood pressure- Early studies indicate that taking a specific lycopene supplement (LycoMato, LycoRed Corp.) daily for 8 weeks leads to a reduction in high blood pressure. Unfortunately, other research has failed to prove any correlation between lycopene levels in the blood and positive effects on blood pressure.

Possibly Ineffective

Bladder cancer- No correlation has been found been lycopene consumption in the diet or high blood levels of lycopene and the risk of developing bladder cancer. 

Diabetes- Research has found no correlation between lycopene consumption and risk of being diagnosed with diabetes. 

How Does it Work?

Lycopene serves as a powerful antioxidant that helps protect cells from damage by fighting free radicals. Its action as an antioxidant makes it a source of interest for its possible role in preventing certain types of cancer. 

Safety

Lycopene's safety as a supplement during pregnancy has not been confirmed. A study using a particular lycopene supplement (LycoRed, Jagsonpal Pharmaceuticals) showed that consuming 2 mg per day between 12 and 20 weeks of pregnancy led to an increased rate of premature births and babies with low birth weights. Lycopene supplements during breastfeeding have also yet to be confirmed as safe. Any woman that is pregnant or breastfeeding should avoid using lycopene supplements.

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