Lycopene is a member of the family of phytochemicals called carotenoids. It is the substance that gives tomatoes and several other fruits their deep red color. Under normal conditions, the concentration of lycopene in human plasma is greater than beta-carotene and other dietary carotenoids. Some studies report that lycopene may enhance various aspects of cellular and non-cellular immunity (1) while other studies report finding no cell-mediated immune effects. (2)

Dosage Info

Dosage Range

2-6mg daily.

Most Common Dosage

4mg daily.

Dosage Forms

Tablets, capsules, and soft gel capsules.

Adult RDI

None established

Adult ODA

None established


  • : None established

Interactions and Depletions


Active Forms



Lycopene from tomatoes is more efficiently absorbed from the GI tract if it has been processed into juice, sauce, paste, or ketchup. Studies have reported that heat processing renders lycopene more absorbable.

Toxicities & Precautions


Lycopene has no known toxicity or contraindications.

Functions in the Body


Acts as a free radical scavenger. (3)

Skin protection:

It has been reported that lycopene protects the skin against ultraviolet light-induced erythemia caused by photooxidation. (4)

Clinical Applications


Studies have shown that lycopene significantly decreases serum lipid peroxidation and LDL oxidation, which reduces the risk of developing atherosclerosis. (5) , (6) , (7)

Macular Degeneration

It has been shown that a low level of lycopene is more predictive of age-related macular degeneration (ARMD) than other dietary carotenoids or tocopherols. (8)

Cancer Prevention

Many studies have reported an inverse relationship between ingestion of lycopene-rich foods and cancer. The benefit was strongest for cancers of the prostate, lung, and stomach. Data were also suggestive of a benefit for cancers of the pancreas, colon and rectum, esophagus, oral cavity, breast, and cervix. (9) , (10)

Prostate Cancer

Men with newly diagnosed prostate cancer received 15 mg of lycopene twice daily for two weeks prior to surgery. At the time of surgery, 73% of the men taking lycopene had no cancerous involvement of surgical margins and/or extra-prostatic tissues compared to 18% of controls and 84% of men in the lycopene group had tumors less than 4 ml in size compared to 45% of controls. Also, diffuse high-grade prostatic intraepithelial neoplasia was present in 67% of the men taking lycopene compared to 100% of the control group. These results suggest that lycopene may retard the growth of prostate cancer. (11)

Symptoms and Causes of Deficiency

Since lycopene is not an essential nutrient for humans, there is no deficiency condition associated with it. However, studies indicate that individuals whose diets are low in lycopene-containing foods are at greater risk to cardiovascular disease (12) , (13) and several forms of cancer. (14) , (15)

Dietary Sources

High levels of lycopene are found in tomatoes, guava, watermelon, pink grapefruit, and rosehips.


  1. View Abstract: Chew BP. Antioxidant vitamins affect food animal immunity and health. J Nutr. Jun1995;125(6 Suppl):1804S-1808S.
  2. View Abstract: Corridan BM, O'Donoghue M, Hughes DA, Morrissey PA. Low-dose supplementation with lycopene or beta-carotene does not enhance cell-mediated immunity in healthy free-living elderly humans. Eur J Clin Nutr. Aug2001;55(8):627-35.
  3. View Abstract: Klebanov GI, Kapitanov AB, Teselkin you, et al. The antioxidant properties of lycopene. Membr Cell Biol. 1998;12(2):287-300.
  4. View Abstract: Stahl W, Heinrich U, Wiseman S, et al. Dietary tomato paste protects against ultraviolet light-induced erythema in humans. J Nutr. May2001;131(5):1449-51.
  5. View Abstract: Agarwal S, et al. Tomato Lycopene and Low Density Lipoprotein Oxidation: A Human Dietary Intervention Study. Lipids. Oct1998;33(10):981-84.
  6. View Abstract: Agarwal S, et al. Tomato Lycopene and Low Density Lipoprotein Oxidation: A Human Dietary Intervention Study. Lipids. Oct1998;33(10):981-84.
  7. View Abstract: Rissanen T, Voutilainen S, Nyyssonen K, Salonen JT. Lycopene, atherosclerosis, and coronary heart disease. Exp Biol Med (Maywood). Nov2002;227(10):900-7.
  8. View Abstract: Mares-Perlman JA, et al. Serum Antioxidants and Age-related Macular Degeneration in a Population-based Case-control Study. Arch Ophthalmol. Dec1995;113(12):1518-23.
  9. View Abstract: Giovannucci E. Tomatoes, Tomato-based Products, Lycopene, and Cancer: Review of the Epidemiologic Literature. J Natl Cancer Inst. Feb1999;91(4):317-31.
  10. View Abstract: Rao AV, et al. Bioavailability and In Vivo Antioxidant Properties of Lycopene from Tomato Products and Their Possible Role in the Prevention of Cancer. Nutr Cancer. 1998;31(3):199-203.
  11. View Abstract: Kucuk O, Sarkar FH, Sakr W, et al. Phase II randomized clinical trial of lycopene supplementation before radical prostatectomy. Cancer Epidemiol Biomarkers Prev. Aug2001;10(8):861-8.
  12. View Abstract: Kohlmeir L, et al. Lycopene and Myocardial Infarction Risk in the EURAMIC Study. Am J Epidemiol. Oct1997;146(8):618-26.
  13. View Abstract: Sesso HD, et al. Plasma lycopene, other carotenoids, and retinol and the risk of cardiovascular disease in women. Am J Clin Nutr. Jan 2004;79(1):47-53.
  14. View Abstract: Clinton SK. Lycopene: Chemistry, Biology, and Implications for Human Health and Disease. Nutr Rev. Feb1998;56(2 Pt 1):35-51.
  15. View Abstract: Nkondjock A, et al. Dietary Intake of Lycopene Is Associated with Reduced Pancreatic Cancer Risk. J Nutr. Mar 2004;135:592-7.