Written by Gabriele Dennert and the CAM-Cancer Consortium.
Updated July 26, 2013

Lycopene

Is it safe?

Supranutritional intake of lycopene seems to be generally safe in men and non-pregnant women.

Adverse events

Authors of a systematic review of lycopene for prostate cancer patients found no indication that the use of lycopene was harmful in these men.23 Also Shao and Hathcock claimed that the ‘absence of any pattern of adverse effects related to lycopene consumption in any of the published human trials provides support for a high level of confidence in the safety of this substance.’32:p.93

One RCT in pregnant women indicated a higher rate of adverse effects (preterm labour, low birth weight) in the lycopene group (2mg/day) as compared to placebo.33

Contraindications

There are no known contraindications.

Interactions

One animal study reported a possible interaction between lycopene and alcohol intake, with the enzyme cytochrome P450 2E1 being induced by this combination.34 However, the relevance of this finding for humans is unclear.

One recent in-vitro study 35 found that tomato products, but not lycopene alone, had an inhibitory effect on cytochrome P450 3A4 (CYP3A4)-mediated metabolism, the magnitude of which differed between substrates. As CYP3A4 is involved in the metabolization of multiple drugs, including antibiotics, cytostatic and psychotropic drugs, these findings support caution when large quantities of tomato products are concomitantly taken with CYP3A4-dependent drugs.

Warnings

The actual content of lycopene in commercially available nutritional supplements seems to vary and may differ by as much as +/-38–42% from the stated content.36

Other problems or complications

It is possible that the intake of high amounts of lycopene leads to a discoloration of the skin, because of an accumulation of the yellow-orange pigment this carotenoid contains.37

Citation Gabriele Dennert, CAM-Cancer Consortium. Lycopene [online document]. http://ws.cam-cancer.org/The-Summaries/Herbal-products/Lycopene. July 26, 2013.

References

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