What is lycopene, and where is it used?
Lycopene is a natural pigment that gives fruits and vegetables like tomatoes, watermelons, and pink grapefruits their red or pink colour. It is known for its antioxidant properties and is believed it could well contribute to heart health and help protect against certain types of cancer .
Lycopene is used in various industries and applications
Food and Beverage: Lycopene is used as a natural food colouring agent in items like sauces, ketchup, and fruit drinks . It is registered as E160d on the label.
Dietary Supplements: Lycopene is available in supplements that are often marketed for the potential health benefits in heart health and anti-oxidation .
Cosmetics and Skincare: Due to its potential antioxidant property, lycopene is believed to protect the skin from damage caused by free radicals and environmental factors. Lycopene can be found in creams, lotions, serums, and other skincare formulations [4-6].
Pharmaceutical Industry: Lycopene is also utilised in pharmaceutical preparations, primarily for its antioxidant and potential therapeutic properties [3, 6].
Purported Health Benefits
Antioxidant: Lycopene acts as a potent antioxidant, ‘scavenging’ harmful free radicals in the body. This helps protect cells from oxidative stress, a key factor in the development of chronic diseases like cancer and cardiovascular conditions .
Cardiovascular Health: Studies suggest that lycopene may improve cardiovascular health. It may reduce “bad” LDL cholesterol levels, inhibit blood clot formation, and improve blood vessel function. These factors contribute to a healthy heart and a reduced risk of cardiovascular diseases [1, 7].
Cancer Prevention: Lycopene is associated with a lower risk of certain types of cancer, including prostate, lung, and stomach cancers. Its antioxidant and anti-inflammatory properties help combat factors that contribute to cancer development, such as DNA damage and chronic inflammation .
Skin Protection: Lycopene's antioxidant activity extends to the skin, where it helps neutralise free radicals caused by UV radiation and environmental pollutants. This protection against oxidative stress can help prevent skin ageing, sunburn, and potentially reduce the risk of skin cancer .
Eye Health: Lycopene may play a role in maintaining healthy vision and reducing the risk of eye conditions like age-related macular degeneration (AMD) and cataracts. Its antioxidant properties help protect the eyes from damage caused by oxidative stress and cellular ageing .
Recommendations for Safe Consumption
Enjoy Lycopene-Rich Foods: Enjoy the natural sources of lycopene, which contain other important components such as fibre, vitamins and minerals, to further support overall health.
Cook with Tomatoes: Cooking tomatoes can increase the availability of lycopene in the body ! So go ahead with preparing those tomato-based sauces, soups, and stews.
Balanced Diet: Remember to maintain a balanced diet that includes a variety of fruits, vegetables, whole grains, lean proteins, and healthy fats. Lycopene is just one beneficial component of a well-rounded eating plan.
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We do our best to source robust information from a number of credible sources. There is, however, a large amount of information on various aspects of nutritional elements along with claims in terms of their contribution to helping in body health which may contradict the above.