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Lycopene is a pigment that helps give red fruits and vegetables their color. It has attracted scientific attention due to its effects as a natural antioxidant. Studies have shown that this pigment has potent anti-cancer properties, reduces stress, and helps prevent muscular injury and inflammation.

Introduction

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Lycopene is a common carotenoid found in fruits and vegetables.

Carotenoids are compounds that give fruits and vegetables their red, orange, and/or yellow color.

They are commonly found in tomatoes, apricots, cranberries, grapes, grapefruits, guava, papayas, peaches, and watermelons.

Lycopenes are not essential for humans but are usually incorporated into the diet.

It has antioxidant properties and has claimed anti-cancer properties.

It is often taken as a supplement, but too much lycopene can lead to skin discoloration.

Health Benefits of Lycopene

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1) Lycopene Is an Anti-inflammatory and Protects Against Injury

In rats, lycopene protects from lipopolysaccharide-induced acute lung injury by reducing inflammation (R).

In rodents, it protects from depression-like behaviors and brain cell injury by reducing lipopolysaccharide-induced inflammation (R).

Treatment with lycopene may protect against muscle injury and inflammation in mice (R).

2) Lycopene Prevents Liver Damage

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In rats, lycopene reduced furan- and diabetes-induced toxicity in the rat liver (R).

In ferrets, it reduced tobacco-associated non-alcoholic fatty liver disease and liver cancer (R).

Lycopene treatment improves normal blood levels after being fed a high-fat diet in rats with non-alcoholic fatty liver disease (R).

In male rats, it may reverse hyperhomocysteinemia, a blood disorder, which demonstrates an ability to help protect the liver (R).

3) Lycopene Helps Prevent Stress

Lycopene preserves sperm functionality and prevents sperm mutations caused by oxidative stress due to its antioxidant properties (R).

In mice, it may reduce oxygen deficiency by preventing endoplasmic reticulum stress and relieving any stress-induced cell death (R).

Lactococcus lactis, an important bacteria in dairy products, becomes more resistant to UV stress when combined with lycopene-related genes (R).

When combined with sodium valproate, lycopene reduced seizures and oxidative stress in mice (R).

In rats, daily supplementation of lycopene and gabapentin reversed sensitivity to pain, cold sensitivity, and reduced oxidative stress (R).

4) Lycopene Inhibits Cancer Cell Growth

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In human head and neck squamous cell carcinoma lines, lycopene prevented rapid cell growth and cellular invasion (R).

There is an increase in BCO2 production, a gene that acts as a tumor suppressor in prostate cancer (R).

5) Lycopene May Help Protect the Skin

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In humans, lycopene supplementation protects skin against harmful UV effects (R).

6) Lycopene Reduces Intestinal Damage

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In patients with chronic bacterial prostatitis, a combination of lycopene with other substances such as methylsulfonylmethane extracts improved the efficacy of levofloxacin, an antibiotic (R).

In patients with ulcerative colitis, lycopene reduced fecal blood, mucus, and pus (R).

7) Lycopene Is Neuroprotective

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In rats, lycopene reduced spinal cord injury by promoting the repair of the blood-spinal cord barrier (R).

Lycopene also reduces neuropathic pain by increasing spinal astrocytic connexin 43 gene production (R).

It also reduced learning and memory impairments in rats, and prevented dendritic spine density reduction caused by high-fat diets (R).

8) Lycopene Helps Restore Vitamin A Deficiency

In mice, lycopene supplementation restored vitamin A deficiency (R).

Cons

  • In patients with ulcerative colitis, lycopene did not reduce abdominal pain (R).
  • In an analysis of three studies, lycopene did not prevent prostate cancer as previously claimed and was not associated with colorectal cancer risk (RR2).
  • Lycopene may cause low blood pressure, increase the risk of bleeding, and interfere with estrogen/hormone therapies and chemotherapy medications (R, R2).
  • It may also cause anorexia, chest pain, diarrhea, stomach pressure, gas, indigestion, nausea, skin discoloration, and vomiting (R).

Health Tools I Wish I Had When I Was Sick

At SelfHacked, it’s our goal to offer our readers all the tools possible to get optimally healthy. When I was struggling with chronic health issues I felt stuck because I didn’t have any tools to help me get better. I had to spend literally thousands of hours trying to read through studies on pubmed to figure out how the body worked and how to fix it.

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  • SelfHacked Elimination Diet course – a video course that will help you figure out which diet works best for you
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  • Biohacking insomnia – an ebook on how to get great sleep
  • Lectin Avoidance Cookbook – an e-cookbook for people with food sensitivities
  • BrainGauge – a device that detects subtle brain changes and allows you to test what’s working for you
  • SelfHacked VIP – an area where you can ask me (Joe) questions about health topics

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