Lycopene is chemically a carotene without any vitamin A activity and a plant nutrient with antioxidant properties. Tomatoes, pink grapefruits, carrots, papaya, and watermelon acquire their characteristic red and pink colors from this lycopene pigment. Lycopene is highly beneficial in offering a wide range of health benefits including protection against sunburns, heart health and various types of cancers. Lycopene serves as an antioxidant in the carotenoid family protecting the body against damage caused by herbicides, pesticides, monosodium glutamate (MSG) and various fungi.
The major benefit of lycopene concerning us is the protection it provides against certain types of lethal cancers. A few types of cancers have been found to be prevented or slowly progressed due to the strong antioxidant action of lycopene. Various studies have investigated lycopene to limit tumor growth in breast and prostate cancers. The growth of cancer cells might be prevented in the animal kidneys.
The risks of prostate and lung cancers are reduced to about 32-50% in humans due to high intake of lycopene. Lycopene has been studied in detail in more than 46,000 men and is known to reduce prostate cancer. There is a 30% reduced risk of prostate cancer in men who eat at least two servings of lycopene-rich tomato sauce per week as compared to those who consumed less than one serving of tomato sauce per month. 26 studies report 9% lower probability of developing prostate cancer due to high intake of lycopene.
Lycopene is especially beneficial if taken 9–21 mg per day. Lycopene can also be taken in supplement form apart from acquiring it directly through foods. Lycopene might interfere with blood-pressure-lowering medications and blood thinners and might increase preterm labor or low birth weight risk during pregnancy if taken as a supplement. So, it is best to acquire it through lycopene-rich foods like tomatoes and other red or pink fruits rather than taking as a supplement.