Lycopene Benefits & Other Diseases

Since lycopene is such an efficient antioxidant, protecting DNA from oxidative damage and improving cell-cell communication, it is possible it has wide-ranging health benefits. So perhaps it is not surprising that many claims, based on interesting but limited trials, have been reported.

Dr Mohanty, from New Delhi, has reported in a series of research papers that lycopene, given as the tomato extract lyc-o-mato, can improve male fertility. The trials are quite convincing but, like so many others, are too small for any degree of certainly. Nevertheless, the results are encouraging with, in one such trial, 36% of the couples involved, reporting positive pregnancy testing within 9 months of a 15 mg per day dose of lycopene. Somewhat related several men, not in any scientific trial, have reported increased virility. This seems likely to be a placebo effect possibly associated with improved, or at least, suspected improvement, in prostate disease.

A few trials have reported benefits for the fight against ovarian cancer. For example, Professor Daniel Cramer and co-workers from the Bringham and Women’s Hospital, USA reported a study of 549 cases of ovarian cancer and 516 controls. He summarised his findings as ‘intake of lycopene was significantly and inversely associated with risk for ovarian cancer, predominantly in premenopausal women’. Again, more and larger trials are needed to confirm such reports.

There have also been strong claims that lycopene can help against osteoporosis. In particular, this has been linked to the antioxidant properties of lycopene with typical claims that ‘Lycopene consumption decreases oxidative stress and bone resorption markers in postmenopausal women’ taken from the journal Osteoporosis Int 2007, volume 18, pages 109–15. Bone is a tissue that is continuously being renewed throughout life via removal of old bone by cells called ‘osteoclasts’ and building of new bone by cells called ‘osteoblasts’. Studies of such cells has suggested that lycopene may be useful in the pathogenesis and prevention of osteoporosis. However there are discrepancies in the effect of lycopene and more studies are needed to help understand the possible role of lycopene in this disease. Quoting from Dr Rao of the University of Toronto, Department of Medicine: ‘Although it is too early to suggest that eating tomatoes and tomato products will prevent osteoporosis, it would be a healthy practise to include tomatoes and tomato products in the diet as a source of lycopene for the prevention of oxidative stress–related chronic diseases, including osteoporosis.’