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Lycopene is not a necessary nutrient. However, like other substances found in fruits and vegetables, it may be very important for optimal health.
Tomatoes are the best source of lycopene. Happily, cooking doesn't destroy lycopene, so pizza sauce is just as good as a fresh tomato. In fact, some studies indicate that cooking tomatoes in oil may provide lycopene in a way that the body can use better, 1 although not all studies agree. 2 Lycopene is also found in watermelon, guava, and pink grapefruit. Synthetic lycopene is also available and appears to be as well absorbed as natural-source lycopene. 3
The optimum dosage for lycopene has not been established, but the amount found helpful in studies generally fell in the range of 4 to 8 mg daily.
It has been suggested the lycopene is better absorbed when it is taken with fats such as olive oil, but one study failed to find any meaningful change in absorption. 4
- Weisburger JH. Evaluation of the evidence on the role of tomato products in disease prevention. Proc Soc Exp Biol Med. 218(2):140-3.
- Rao AV, Agarwal S. Bioavailability and in vivo antioxidant properties of lycopene from tomato products and their possible role in the prevention of cancer. Nutr Cancer. 1998;31:199-203.
- Hoppe PP, Krämer K, van den Berg H, Steenge G, van Vliet T. Synthetic and tomato-based lycopene have identical bioavailability in humans. Eur J Nutr. 42(5):272-8.
- Ahuja KD, Pittaway JK, Ball MJ. Effects of olive oil and tomato lycopene combination on serum lycopene, lipid profile, and lipid oxidation. Nutrition. 22(3):259-65.