Lycopene is an antioxidant found originally in tomatoes that can improve cardiovascular health, prevent oxidative damage and oxidative stress, treat systemic inflammation, and has even been studied as a preventative agent against prostate cancer.
Lycopene can be taken in supplemental form to get a concentrated dose, with all of the antioxidant and anti-inflammatory benefits, and has been studied in a number of clinical trials for its potential for improving long-term health.
We’ve reviewed and ranked the ten most effective lycopene supplements on the market, so if you are looking to take advantage of the long term health benefits associated with this supplement, read on.
1. NOW Lycopene
NOW Lycopene keeps it basic, but this formulation has a solid dosage of 20 mg of lycopene per capsule, which is delivered in rice bran oil and a gelatin capsule.
Those aside, there are zero additional ingredients, making this an excellent choice for lycopene.
2. Puritan's Pride Lycopene
Puritan's Pride Lycopene is popular and the dosage is high, at 40 mg per capsule. The capsule design isn’t the cleanest, but as far as lycopene supplements that are both high dosage and delivered dissolved in a lipid solution, it’s your best bet by a long ways.
3. GNC Lycopene
GNC Lycopene scores well when it come to dosage, as its 30 mg per capsule of lycopene is pretty solid.
The supplement design is reasonably clean, but not the best: it’d be nice if the lycopene was dissolved in something other than soybean oil, but that aside, it’s a good choice.
4. Life Extension Mega Lycopene
Life Extension Mega Lycopene offers a middle of the road dosage of 15 mg of lycopene in a soy-free formulation that uses rice bran oil and sunflower lecithin as the primary solvents for lycopene.
It’s a pretty good and fairly pure choice if you don’t need a super-high dosage of lycopene.
5. Healthy Origins Natural Lyc-O-Mato
Healthy Origins Natural Lyc-O-Mato doesn’t deliver the highest lycopene dosage, at only 15 mg per capsule, but it does provide lycopene alongside plenty of the other biologically active compounds you’ll find in tomatoes, like vitamin A, vitamin E, and a number of phytonutrients that support the function of lycopene.
6. We Like Vitamins Lycopene
We Like Vitamins Lycopene is the way to go if you want a strong dose of lycopene. At 50 mg per capsule, it provides multiple times the dosage you’d get in many other lycopene supplements.
In addition, the only other ingredients in this supplement are gelatin and rice flour, making it a very simply designed supplement.
However, this lycopene supplement does have one disadvantage: the lycopene is not dissolved in an oil, so it will be tougher for your body to absorb if you don’t take it alongside food with some fat or oil in it.
7. KRK Supplements Lycopene-50
KRK Supplements Lycopene-50 also uses a high dose form of lycopene, and delivers 50 mg per capsule, but its ingredients list is a touch more bloated.
Additionally, it’s not quite as popular or well-known of a brand, which unfortunately leaves it lower in the rankings.
8. Nature's Bounty Advanced Lycopene
At only 10 mg of lycopene per capsule, the dosage in Nature's Bounty Advanced Lycopene is disappointingly low.
That might be okay if the supplement were pretty simply designed, but you’ll have to put up with several additives, like soybean oil and beeswax, in addition to the low dosage. For most people, there are better solutions for lycopene.
9. NutriONN 100% Natural Tomato Lycopene
NutriONN 100% Natural Tomato Lycopene is low in dosage and not the best when it comes to supplement design either; though its users do rate it quite highly, its low dosage (10 mg per capsule) and slightly bloated ingredients list is bested by a number of other lycopene supplements on the market
10. 21st Century Maximum Strength Lycopene
While 21st Century Maximum Strength Lycopene is a popular source of lycopene, its tablet-based formulation means that it carries a lot more additives than a capsule.
If you don’t mind tablet fillers, binders, and coloring agents, like silicon dioxide and artificial coloring agents, its dosage is solid, at 25 mg, but for purity, there are a lot better options out there.
Lycopene benefits and side effects
Lycopene has been widely recognized as a powerful antioxidant and anti-inflammatory, making it widely used and widely studied to reduce risk factors for heart disease, cancer, and other chronic diseases linked to inflammation and oxidative damage.
It’s best-known as a constituent of tomatoes, and indeed, tomatoes are by far the greatest source of lycopene, but it’s also found in watermelon, cabbage, grapefruit, and papaya.
We’ll take a look at some of the science behind how lycopene could help improve your long-term health.
Lycopene intake has been linked to decreased risk of cardiovascular disease. Initial evidence for the health benefits of lycopene came from epidemiological studies which involved thousands of people who filled out food frequency questionnaires, who were then tracked over time.
Researchers noticed a pattern between high consumption of tomato-containing foods and a decreased risk of cardiovascular disease.
One such study, published in the Journal of Nutrition by researchers at at Brigham and Women’s Hospital in Boston, quantified this relationship among a group of nearly 40,000 women (1).
The researchers uncovered a trend towards lower rates of cardiovascular disease among the women who had the highest intake of tomato-based foods, particularly when they contained oil as well.
Lycopene is absorbed better when it’s dissolved in fat or oil. Like a few of its chemically-related compounds, like beta carotene (found in eye vitamins, general antioxidant supplements, among other sources), lycopene is fat-soluble.
That means that your body stores it and absorbs it better when you supply it alongside some fat. According to Dr. Edward Giovannucci, a nutritional epidemiology researcher at Harvard University’s School of Public Health, lycopene should be consumed alongside fats or oils if eaten in food (2).
By extension, a high-quality lycopene supplement will provide lycopene dissolved in some type of oil, like soybean oil or corn oil. This will ensure greater absorption.
The fat solubility of lycopene isn’t merely theoretical: a study published in 2005 by researchers in Australia demonstrated convincingly that lycopene in tomatoes consumed by itself is absorbed much less effectively than when it is accompanied by oil (3).
The antioxidative power of lycopene may prevent prostate cancer. Like many other antioxidants, like green tea and resveratrol, one of the areas of greatest interest in lycopene supplementation is in the possibility that it could reduce your risk of cancer.
Epidemiological evidence supports this link, at least with regards to prostate cancer. A study published in the Journal of the National Cancer Institute in 2002 examined the link between lycopene intake and prostate cancer incidence among a group of health care professionals who were tracked longitudinally for several years, and those who got prostate cancer were recorded (4).
The researchers found that people who had the greatest estimated intake of lycopene had a 23% lower risk of prostate cancer compared to those with the lowest intake.
Lycopene has been studied as a treatment for prostate cancer as well. Because of the emerging evidence on lycopene’s ability to prevent prostate cancer, some small pilot studies have even examined using it as an adjunctive treatment for prostate cancer.
One study published in 2001 used a 30 mg dose of lycopene or a placebo in a small group of men who had been recently diagnosed with prostate cancer (5).
Since the men were going to have their prostates removed surgically anyways, the researchers tested the effects of a three week lycopene supplementation routine on the growth of their prostate tumors.
Though the sample size was small, the researchers did find that the tumors in the men who had taken lycopene had grown less than the tumors in the men who took the placebo, providing tantalizing evidence that lycopene could even be used in addition to standard treatments for prostate cancer.
It should be emphasized, though, that this was a pilot study with a very small sample size and it’s not possible to draw any firm conclusions from these data.
Lycopene can reduce inflammation and improve cholesterol levels, especially in people who are overweight. Thanks to its anti-inflammatory properties, lycopene has also been subjected to studies on reducing inflammation.
One target condition for much of these experiments is obesity, as excess body fat is directly linked to chronic, systemic inflammation, which in turn is thought to cause many of the negative health effects related to obesity.
One study published in the Journal of Nutritional Biochemistry studied overweight individuals over the course of twelve weeks (6). Half the subjects were put on a low lycopene diet, while the other half were put on a high lycopene diet and also given a 10 mg lycopene supplement to take every day.
The researchers found that the high lycopene group decreased biomarkers of inflammation while also increasing their levels of HDL (“good”) cholesterol. This adds to the tally of chronic diseases that lycopene may help improve or prevent.
Pretty much all lycopene supplements contain no more lycopene than you’d get with several hearty servings of any tomato-containing food, so the odds of any adverse effects are extremely low.
A study published in 2006 in the journal Regulatory Toxicology and Pharmacology reviewed the scientific literature and established 75 mg per day as a well-established observed safe level―even at intakes this high, no negative effects are observed (7).
Even beyond this intake level, the only reason the threshold isn’t higher is because of a lack of evidence.
Based on extrapolations from the epidemiological literature, to match the lycopene intake among the people with the lowest risk for cardiovascular disease and prostate cancer, you should strive for at least 10 mg of lycopene per day, and a higher intake of 15-30 mg per day is probably better.
To date, clinical research has focused on doses of 30 mg per day, split into two capsules (one taken in the morning and one taken in the evening).
This likely helps keep blood levels of lycopene high throughout the day and night. As mentioned earlier, lycopene will probably be absorbed most effectively if it’s taken in a supplement that delivers the lycopene dissolved in an oil.
For treating systemic inflammation related to being overweight, you may need a higher dosage if your dietary intake of lycopene also does not go up.
The clinical research on using lycopene for systemic inflammation in people who are overweight or obese uses a high lycopene diet in conjunction with supplementation, so you may need to up the standard dosage.
Lycopene has strong antioxidant and anti-inflammatory properties, and these properties appear to be linked to decreases in risk for cardiovascular disease and prostate cancer. Lycopene, being a fat-soluble vitamin, is best absorbed when dissolved in oil.
If your supplement does not deliver it in oil, consider taking it alongside some olive oil or fish oil to boost absorption. Shoot for at least 10 mg per day, and 30 mg per day would be better. Most clinical studies split this dose up into two equal portions taken in the morning and the evening.
Lycopene is a particularly good supplement choice for men, because they are obviously at risk for prostate cancer, and in addition, men have a higher rate of cardiovascular disease than women.
Taking a lycopene supplement is one way you might be able to mitigate these risks and improve your long-term health.