Lycopene is currently the most powerful antioxidant which has been measured in food2 and is thought to play a role in preventing cancer and heart disease. How large a protective role lycopene plays is a controversial issue which is still under scientific study. Lycopene is a carotenoid that gives many fruits and vegetables their red color, eating lycopene in excess amounts can cause the skin and liver to have a yellow color. Unlike other carotenes, lycopene does not get converted into vitamin A. There are no known symptoms of a lycopene deficiency, and no daily value (DV) for lycopene. Foods high in lycopene include guavas, watermelon, tomatoes, papaya, grapefruit, sweet red peppers, asparagus, purple cabbage, mangos, and carrots. Below is a list of high lycopene foods, for more, see the lists of high lycopene foods by nutrient density, and lycopene rich foods.
For more foods high in lycopene use the nutrient ranking tool. *Amount of lycopene may vary greatly between products. Be sure to check nutrition labels for the exact amount of lycopene from each individual product.
Reduced Cancer Risk3-6
Protection Against Heart Disease7,8
Reduced Risk of Macular Degeneration9
As of 2005 the United States Food and Drug Administration (USDA) has not approved scientific claims of lycopene's health benefits to be significant. However, lycopene is a powerful antioxidant and several studies have found evidence to suggest thatlycopene may provide the health benefits listed above.
Liver and Fois Gras are high cholesterol foods which should be eaten in moderate amounts and avoided by people at risk of heart disease or stroke.
Consuming excess amounts of lycopene can lead to skin discolorations known as lycopenodermia. This condition is considered harmlessand will go away on its own when lycopene is no longer consumed. Upper limits for intake of lycopene have not been established, and consuminghigh doses of lycopene should be approached with caution and doctor supervision.
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Data Sources and References
USDA National Nutrient Database for Standard Reference, Release 25.
Mascio PD, Kaiser S, Sies H. Lycopene as the most efficient biological carotenoid singlet oxygen quencher. Biochemistry and BiophysicsVolume 274, Issue 2, 1 November 1989, Pages 532-538.
Giovannucci E, Ascherio A, Rimm EB, et al. Intake of carotenoids and retinol in relation to risk of prostate cancer. J Natl Cancer Inst. 1995;87:1767-1776.
Sies H, Stahl W. Lycopene: antioxidant and biological effects and its bioavailability in the human. Proc Soc Exp Biol Med . 1998;218:121-124.
Rao AV, Agarwal S. Bioavailability and in vivo antioxidant properties of lycopene from tomato products and their possible role in the prevention of cancer. Nutr Cancer . 1998;31:199-203.
Franceschi S, Bidoli E, La Vecchia C, et al. Tomatoes and risk of digestive-tract cancers. Int J Cancer . 1994;59:181-184.
Sesso HD, Liu S, Gaziano JM, et al. Dietary lycopene, tomato-based food products and cardiovascular disease in women. J Nutr . 2003;133:2336-2341.
Sesso HD, Buring JE, Norkus EP, et al. Plasma lycopene, other carotenoids, and retinol and the risk of cardiovascular disease in men. Am J Clin Nutr. 2005;81:990-997.
Mares-Perlman JA, Brady WE, Klein R, et al. Serum antioxidants and age-related macular degeneration in a population-based case-control study. Arch Ophthalmol . 1995;113:1518-1523.