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The name “Lycopene” is derived from the Latin Solanum lycopersicum, the Linnaean name for the common Tomato. It is the bright red pigment found in tomatoes and other fruits and vegetables, such as cherries, watermelon, pink grapefruit, red bell peppers and papayas. However, there are many fruits and vegetables such as asparagus and parsley that contain lycopene yet are not red in color.
Lycopene is not water soluble so upon ingestion, it is incorporated in fat globules in the intestines and then disseminated. As it permeates the very low-density lipoproteins in the blood, those made up of triglycerides and the “bad” cholesterol, this may in some way explain its benefits in preventing/ameliorating atherosclerosis. Similarly, lycopene supplementation is associated with enhancing high density lipoprotein levels (the “good” cholesterol) and reducing blood pressure so in general, acts effectively on the cardiovascular system.
As it is hydrophobic, Lycopene primarily ends up residing in fatty tissues and organs, such as the prostate. Thus, it is logical and has been shown in studies to reduce prostate symptoms, PSA levels and perhaps, the risk of prostate cancer itself. Additionally, its concentration in the fatty tissues, such as the testes, could explain its effects on male fertility and spermatogenesis.
There are several studies that have shown it is effective in some types of inflammation; that it may reduce the risk and severity osteoporosis in postmenopausal women; and even, could play a role in reduce the risk of macular degeneration. There are some studies indicating that Lycopene can reduce the risk associated with UV damage from Sun overexposure which is consistent with the role it plays in skin pigmentation.
Lycopene is probably best known from larger studies reporting the benefits of normal tomato consumption – such as the reduction of cardiovascular incidents and increased quality and span of life as seen in the Mediterranean diet. While it is true that a higher level of serum Lycopene is associated with a healthy lifestyle, it is interesting to note that one study reported that in a subgroup with high lycopene levels, the reverse was found: poor health parameters.
Further review revealed that in this subgroup, the main source of Lycopene was in fact from ketchup. This group relied heavily on fast food restaurants for sustenance so while their levels were higher, their general lifestyle negated any perceived benefits.
Phytozon contains the amount of Lycopene shown effective in most of the published clinical studies.