The ClaimLycopene is a pigment that gives veggies and fruit a red hue. You’ll find it in tomatoes, watermelons, papaya, mango, red cabbage, and pink grapefruits. As a nutritional supplement, it fights off environmental damage and inflammation, and people use it to prevent and treat heart disease and certain cancers.
The EvidenceLycopene is better studied than many antioxidants, and while the research isn’t totally consistent, scientific literature has established that low lycopene intake is linked with a higher risk of age-related eye disease and a host of other disease, such as atherosclerosis and heart disease and breast, ovarian, pancreatic, cervical, lung, and colorectal cancer. Some studies have shown that taking lycopene supplements eases symptoms of asthma, enlarged prostate, and gingivitis. It also seems to lower levels of “bad” cholesterol.
“Lycopene is a nutrient produced by plants to defend against toxins, UV damage, and pests—a self-defense mechanism, if you will,” says Chris Niedzinski, owner ofInnerLink Chiropractic in Wixom, Michigan. When you eat the antioxidant, you receive similar benefits: It wards off free radicals that can cause inflammation. “It’s best known for its prostate and breast cancer fighting capabilities,” he adds.
How to Use ItLycopene is quite safe, and scientists have demonstrated that taking 120 milligrams daily is safe for a full year. Munching on ruby-colored produce is a healthy bet, of course, but research shows that the body processes lycopene in supplement form the same way it uses it from fresh fruits and veggies. Taking beta-carotene along with lycopene seems to increase the amount of lycopene that makes it into your system, so if you go the supplement route, consider a combination pill.
Andrea Bartz is a freelance travel, health, and lifestyle writer based in Brooklyn. She's a former editor at *Fit Pregnancy* and *Natural Health*, and her work has appeared in *The Wall Street Journal,* *Marie Claire*, *Men's Health*, and many other magazines. She's also a budding thriller writer and a big fan of live music, good cheese, flat bicycle paths, and wooded parks.