In simple lycopene is a carotenoid, a phytonutrient derived from plant. Phytonutrients give protection to the plant from environmental damage from toxins, germs, fungi, bugs, UV and other threats. And also plays some other vital roles. Human body can’t produce phytonutrient from their own, for that reason you have to include such nutrient from plant derived foods for better health. They are usually identified from their vibrant colors. There are more than 25000 variety of phytonutrients are found and out of them carotenoid is one top with wide health beneficial effects. Phytonutrient lycopene can be identified for its vibrant red to pink colors as seen in tomatoes, carrot , papaya, pink grapefruit, and some other foods. And now let,s find out the health benefits of lycopene to protect your body from diseases.
Lycopene had found its place among the most powerful antioxidants. In human body, antioxidants play vital protective role in fighting against free radicals, toxins and taking control over many chronic diseases. The role of lycopene has gained importance in human nutrition due to its incredible health beneficial effects in chronic diseases including cardiovascular disease, cancer, bone health and more.
Health benefits of lycopene to protect your body from diseases
Lycopene contains powerful antioxidant properties to neutralize harmful reactive free radicals. Oxidation of lipid or cholesterol is considered to one leading cause of atherosclerosis further leads to cardiovascular diseases including heart disease as well as stroke. Lycopene significantly reduce blood lipid peroxidation and LDL oxidation and thus lower the risk of cardiovascular diseases.(1)
Lycopene also poses anti inflammatory properties and increases the intracellular glutathione level. Glutathione plays major role in protection of the human body and depleted with age and lifestyle. We will come later in details. And so it improves body’s protective power. Lycopene inhibits the adhesion of tumor necrosis factor α stimulated monocytes (leukocytes or white blood cells died as result of inflammation reaction) to endothelial cells and suppresses the expression of intercellular cell adhesion molecule-1 at the transcriptional level and thus prevents atherosclerosis.(2)
In a population-based follow-up study published in Neurology, concluded that high serum concentrations of lycopene, decrease the risk of any stroke and ischemic stroke in men.(3)
Lycopene has shown its role in reducing cancer risk. Dietary antioxidant lycopene significantly inhibits growth of prostate and breast cancer cells through inhibition of the signaling pathway, that causes of growth of cancer cells, beginning at the early stage of activity.(4)A prospective cohort study of 46,719 men, as published in American Journal of Clinical Nutrition, showed that lycopene and tomato sauce may play a protective role against prostate cancer. (5)
Dietary lycopne is also found associated with decreased risk of pancreatic cancer.(6)
Oxidative stress and mitochondrial dysfunction have major contributions in various neurological disorders.
Lycopene could counteract neuronal cell death and cell damage induced by Amyloid beta and other neurotoxic substances. Amyloid beta involves as main components of amyloid plaque formation found in the brains of Alzheimer disease patients. Lycopene reduces amyloid beta induced oxidative stress by decreasing intracellular reactive oxygen species generation and mitochondria-derived superoxide production. Lycopene also protects mitochondria against amyloid beta induced damages, by inhibiting mitochondrial oxidative stress as well as give protection against amyloid beta induced neurotoxicity. It also improves mitochondrial function.(7)
Lycopene helps to restore glutathione and protect eye from oxidative stress and further gives protection against cataract development in experimentation.(8)
Age related macular degeneration i.e. death of cells is one most common cause of blindness in elderly people. Oxidation and inflammation plays major role in cell degeneration. Plant phytonutrient lycopene possess both antioxidative and anti-inflammatory properties. Lycopene reduces inflammation and oxidation in cells of eye and prevents this early macular degeneration through numbers of mechanism.(9)
Lycopene reduces oxidative stress in bones, loss of bone mass, cellular architectural deterioration and help to restore bone strength.(10)
A 17-year follow-up Study, suggest that intake of lycopene and some other carotenoids prevent loss of bones and lowers risk of fracture.(11)
In an another study published in Osteoporosis International, found that postmenopausal women taking lycopene in diet significantly increased antioxidant capacity. And along with that it further decreased oxidative stress, loss of bones and risk of osteoporosis(12)
Oxidative stress, inflammation, and the formation of glycation end products play an important role in the progression of diabetic complications. Having a powerful antioxidant property, lycopene may reduce oxidative stress in diabetic patients.(13)
In animal study, Lycopene has beneficial effects in the prevention and treatment of oxidative stress and inflammation in the kidney due to obesity. (14)
However details research in this regard yet to come.
Chronic inflammation causes most of the chronic diseases. You can also read about most common causes of chronic inflammation and prevention
A randomized, placebo-controlled, double-blind, parallel, split-mouth study study as published in Oral Health & preventive dentistry showed lycopene treatment in patients with signs of gingivitis significant reductions in gingivitis as well as bleeding.(15)
Neutrophils are key regulatory cells in development of asthma. It releases a variety of cytokines which effects modulation of immune and inflammatory responses and also can influence airway remodeling.
A randomized, crossover study on asthmatic adults, after treated with tomato extract (45 mg/day lycopene) and tomato juice (45 mg/day of lycopene) for seven days showed a reduced airway neutrophil influx and a reduced sputum neutrophil elastase activity.(16) And thus reduces risk of asthma.
Lycopene may improve male fertility
In a twelve week study among sixty men found lycopene consumption improved sperm motility i.e. how fast sperm can swim as well as sperm quality.(17) Other study also indicated improvement of sperm parameters with lycopene intake. (18)
Take home message:
We hope above information has given you some idea about the word health benefits of lycopene to protect your body from diseases. Lycopene mainly plays protective role against cardiovascular disease as well as cancer in major.
Steaming as well as cooking enhances enhances bioavailability of lycopene that helps your body to absorb better lycopene. However don’t use excessive heat. Lycopene is better absorbed in the body when combine with fat such as olive oil, almond oil and similar other. (19) Some best food source of lycopene includes tomato, carrot, watermelon, papaya, grapefruits, mango, guava, asparagus, red cabbage.
There is no known risk of taking lycopene. However when taken large amount it may cause temporary orange-hued skin discoloration called as lycopenodermia. It is not considered as toxic and returns to normal after reducing the intake.
Some people informed that they felt acidity or heartburn when they consumed food like tomato. However in many cases acidity or heartburn occurs due to not having enough stomach acid rather than high stomach acid. Also read 6 causes of heartburn or acid reflux.
People with food allergy should consider it with carefully. Pregnant and breastfeeding woman should consult with healthcare provider before taking higher dose or supplementation.
Disclaimer: Information provided here are generalized information for informational and entertainment purpose only, not intended to provide one to one health consultation or replace practice of a qualified practitioner. Different people may have different health condition and may have different reaction to the same food. Hence it has been advised to consult with health care provider before application of any of above information
Source & references: 1.Tomato lycopene and low density lipoprotein oxidation: a human dietary intervention study, Agarwal S, Rao AV, Lipids. 1998 Oct;33(10):981-4 2.Lycopene inhibits NF-κB activation and adhesion molecule expression through Nrf2-mediated heme oxygenase-1 in endothelial cells, Yang PM, Chen HZ, Huang YT, Hsieh CW, Wung BS., Int J Mol Med. 2017 Jun;39(6):1533-1450. 3.Serum lycopene decreases the risk of stroke in men,A population-based follow-up study, Lycopene acts through inhibition of IκB kinase to suppress NF-κB signaling in human prostate and breast cancer cells, Assar EA, Vidalle MC, Chopra M, Hafizi S.,Tumour Biol. 2016 Jul;37(7) :9375-85. doi: 10.1007/s13277-016-4798-3. Epub 2016 Jan 16 5.Dietary lycopene intake and risk of prostate cancer defined by ERG protein expression, Graff RE, Pettersson A, Lis RT, Ahearn TU, Markt SC, Wilson KM, Rider JR, Fiorentino M, Finn S, Kenfield SA, Loda M, Giovannucci EL, Rosner B, Mucci LA., Am J Clin Nutr. 2016 Mar;103(3):851-60. 6.Dietary intake of lycopene is associated with reduced pancreatic cancer risk,Nkondjock A, Ghadirian P, Johnson KC, Krewski D; Canadian Cancer Registries Epidemiology Research Group.,J Nutr. 2005 Mar;135(3):592-7 7.Lycopene Prevents Amyloid [Beta]-Induced Mitochondrial Oxidative Stress and Dysfunctions in Cultured Rat Cortical Neurons,Qu M, Jiang Z, Liao Y, Song Z, Nan X,Neurochem Res. 2016 Jun;41(6):1354-64 8.Lycopene attenuates oxidative stress induced experimental cataract development: an in vitro and in vivo study, Gupta SK, Trivedi D, Srivastava S, Joshi S, Halder N, Verma SD., Nutrition. 2003 Sep;19(9):794-9 9.Lycopene inhibits ICAM-1 expression and NF-κB activation by Nrf2- regulated cell redox state in human retinal pigment epithelial cells,Yang PM, Wu ZZ, Zhang YQ, Wung BS,Life Sci. 2016 Jun 15;155:94-101. 10.Lycopene treatment against loss of bone mass, microarchitecture and strength in relation to regulatory mechanisms in a postmenopausal osteoporosis model, Ardawi MM, Badawoud MH, Hassan SM, Rouzi AA, Ardawi JMS, AlNosani NM, Qari MH, Mousa SA, Bone. 2016 Feb;83:127-140. 11.Protective effect of total carotenoid and lycopene intake on the risk of hip fracture: a 17-year follow-up from the Framingham Osteoporosis Study,Sahni S, Hannan MT, Blumberg J, Cupples LA, Kiel DP, Tucker KL., J Bone Miner Res. 2009 Jun;24(6):1086-94 12.Supplementation with the antioxidant lycopene significantly decreases oxidative stress parameters and the bone resorption marker N-telopeptide of type I collagen in postmenopausal women,Mackinnon ES, Rao AV, Josse RG, Rao LG.,Osteoporos Int. 2011 Apr;22(4):1091-101 13.Meta-analysis on the role of lycopene in type 2 diabetes mellitus,Valero MA, Vidal A, Burgos R, Calvo FL, Martínez C, Luengo LM, Cuerda C.,Nutr Hosp. 2011 Nov-Dec;26(6):1236-41 14.Lycopene supplementation reduces TNF-α via RAGE in the kidney of obese rats,Pierine DT, Navarro ME, Minatel IO, Luvizotto RA, Nascimento AF, Ferreira AL, Yeum KJ, Corrêa CR.,Nutr Diabetes. 2014 Nov 10;4:e142 15.Efficacy of lycopene in the treatment of gingivitis: a randomised, placebo-controlled clinical trial, Chandra RV, Prabhuji ML, Roopa DA, Ravirajan S, Kishore HC, Oral Health Prev Dent. 2007;5(4):327-36 16.Lycopene-rich treatments modify noneosinophilic airway inflammation in asthma: proof of concept., Wood LG, Garg ML, Powell H, Gibson PG., Free Radic Res. 2008 Jan;42(1):94-102. 17.Elizabeth A. Williams, Madeleine Parker, Aisling Robinson, Sophie Pitt, Allan A. Pacey. A randomized placebo-controlled trial to investigate the effect of lactolycopene on semen quality in healthy males. European Journal of Nutrition, 2019; DOI: 10.1007/s00394-019-02091-5 18.Damayanthi Durairajanayagam,Ashok Agarwal,Chloe Ong, and Pallavi Prashast,Lycopene and male infertility,Asian J Androl. 2014 May-Jun; 16(3): 420–425, doi: 10.4103/1008-682X.126384 19.Perdomo F, Cabrera Fránquiz F, Cabrera J, Serra-Majem L.,[Influence of cooking procedure on the bioavailability of lycopene in tomatoes]., Nutr Hosp. 2012 Sep-Oct;27(5):1542-6. doi: 10.3305/nh.2012.27.5.5908