In parts one and two, I looked at lycopene’s ability shield the body from heart disease and cancer. Now let’s wrap up the series with where you find it in food, other potential health benefits, and dosage and safety if you are considering supplements.
Tomatoes, ketchup, tomato juice, and pizza sauce are the richest sources of lycopene in our diets, accounting for more than 80% of our entire lycopene intake. Lycopene is also found in watermelon, pink guava, pink grapefruit, and papaya. It has been shown that lycopene from both processed and cooked tomato products is more readily absorbed into the body than from fresh tomatoes.
Here are the conditions that could be prevented or treated by lycopene:
— HIV infections
— Oral leukoplakia
— Exercise-induced asthmatic attacks
— Male infertility
As for dosage, to possibly prevent or treat cancer, the dose of lycopene ranges from six milligrams (mg) to 30 mg a day. To help prevent prostate cancer, it’s six mg and, to help treat it, the dose is 30 mg a day. For lung cancer, its 6.5 mg a day for women and 12 mg a day for men (all who do not smoke). To help lower cholesterol, a daily dose of 60 mg has been used. For sun protection, a daily dose of eight mg of lycopene in combination with other antioxidants has been used.
The safety of supplements hasn’t been adequately studied. There are no reports of serious side effects with tomatoes or lycopene supplements. Note that both the tomato and its byproducts are acidic and may irritate the stomach. If you have stomach ulcers or heartburn, try to minimize your intake of these products.
As for interactions, cholesterol-lowing drugs (like statins)may also lower your lycopene levels, meaning you may need to eat more tomatoes. Also, mineral oil and pectin may decrease the absorption of lycopene. Finally, the fat substitute “Olestra” may lower your lycopene levels. Olestra is found in many reduced-fat foods. Tomatoes and olive oil are a good combination, as the latter may increase your absorption of lycopene.
Read the previous parts of this series: