What Are The Benefits of Lycopene for Men?

Have you ever wondered what makes fruits and vegetables such as tomatoes, watermelons, papayas, red carrots, etc., colorful? 

Lycopene is a bright red carotenoid hydrocarbon found in these fruits and vegetables.

Lycopene is classified as a non-provitamin A carotenoid because it does not act like vitamin A in the body (instead of other carotenoids, like beta-carotene, converted to retinol). 

However, lycopene is a powerful antioxidant with many health benefits. 

Antioxidants are molecules that fight free radicals in our bodies. Thus, lycopene protects against oxidative damage to lipids, proteins, and DNA. 

It also enhances sun protection, improves heart health, and lowers the risk of certain types of cancer. [1]

Aside from giving certain plants and vegetables their color, lycopene also protects cells in the body against damage by acting as an antioxidant. 

It is also believed that lycopene can help prevent cell mutation and influence the immune system positively. 

General health benefits of lycopene include protection from the sun, better heart health, and reduction of the risk of certain types of cancer. [2]

Also, note that lycopene is “fat-soluble” and dissolves in fat. Therefore, consuming a moderate amount of fat (10 to 15 grams) with foods high in lycopene can increase the amount of lycopene absorbed into the body. 

For example, you could add a tablespoon of olive oil dressing to your tomato salad or cooked sauces.

What is lycopene used for?

As we stated earlier, lycopene has antioxidant activity in the body and is involved in several chemical reactions on a cellular level. Because of this, researchers suspect that lycopene may help treat and manage several health conditions as:

1. Prevention and treatment of cancer

According to epidemiologic studies, lycopene has antioxidant and anticancer properties, which suggests that a high intake of lycopene-rich foods can reduce the risk of developing cancer. [2]

2. Prevention of atherosclerosis

Evidence suggests that lycopene may help protect against atherosclerosis, though exactly how it works is unknown. [2,5]

3. Treatment of cardiovascular diseases

One review of studies found that higher lycopene consumption was associated with a decreased risk of coronary heart disease and stroke. [5]

4. Improving vision

Macular degeneration is a central vision loss as someone ages. In a limited population, levels of carotenoids in the body have been found to have an inverse relationship with the likelihood of developing age-related macular degeneration. [4,5]

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5. Treatment of Asthma

Studies show that participants who had received 30 mg per day of lycopene for one week had improved exercise-induced asthma.

6. Improving bone health

There is growing evidence that lycopene can help maintain bone strength. In a clinical study, lycopene affected bone metabolism. The authors found that lycopene changed the activity of multiple genes that support bone density, which provides strength to bones. 

In addition, the authors carried out a pilot study with 68 women. The study supported that supplementation of tomato sauce, high in lycopene, can help retain bone strength. This research is exciting, but more extensive studies are needed to confirm these results. 

5 benefits of lycopene for men

A recent study found that consuming 14 milligrams a day of lycopene can improve fertility in healthy young men by about 40 percent.

Amazing right? Let’s look at more benefits of lycopene to men below.

1. Lycopene improves fertility in men

According to the World Health Organization, infertility is defined as ‘the inability of a sexually active couple (at least three times per month), who do not use contraception, to achieve pregnancy within one year. 

About 10%–15% of couples worldwide are affected. Also, approximately half of the cases are because of the male factor. The most common cause of male factor infertility is varicocele (about 35%). 

However, 25% of the patients are idiopathically infertile. Other causes include urogenital infections, congenital and genetic anomalies, immunologic factors, and endocrine disorders. Some lycopene supplementation research conducted on men has shown positive results in treating infertility in men.

2. It helps the prostate

Prostate cancer is one of the top three cancers in men. A healthy intake of lycopene can prevent it. 

Studies have looked into the effects of lycopene on urinary function. In one study, patients with benign prostatic hyperplasia (BPH) were given 15 mg per day of lycopene for six months. The study found that urinary function improved more in the study group than in the control group. 

Research has shown that higher lycopene levels strongly correlate with a reduced risk for prostate cancer. For example, a meta-analysis showed that participants who reported higher lycopene intake and had higher blood levels of lycopene were at a lower risk of prostate cancer. 

Also, as lycopene intake and blood level increased, cancer risk decreased further. However, there’s currently no evidence that the lycopene itself is directly causing this reduced risk. 

For example, it’s known that eating more fruit and vegetables overall is associated with a reduced risk of cancer. Other behaviors that support health may also coincidentally occur in people who eat enough lycopene. 

To illustrate, studies have shown that those who eat more fruits and vegetables are also less likely to drink alcohol. Drinking more alcohol than the recommended daily amounts has increased the risk of certain types of cancer.

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3. Cancer

Various studies have found an association between lycopene consumption and a reduced risk of lung, gastric, and breast cancers

Lycopene is an antioxidant—in theory, antioxidants could protect against cancer by preventing damage to DNA and cell structures. 

Unfortunately, the current research on lycopene benefits is too limited in quality to say without a shred of doubt that lycopene decreases cancer risk in men. High-quality research is needed to show that lycopene and its antioxidant abilities can directly impact the development of prostate and other cancers. [2]

4. It also increases testosterone levels

Lycopene, according to research, is believed to increase testosterone levels in men significantly. [3]

5. It improves sperm quality

According to the CNY fertility center in the USA, lycopene is said to enhance the quality of sperm. It can increase the sperm count (the number of sperm present in a semen sample), sperm motility (the ability of the sperm to move immediately), and sperm morphology (the size, shape & appearance of sperm. [3]

How to take lycopene 

Research shows that lycopene is better absorbed by our bodies when heated and combined with healthy fats, like olive or coconut oil. Some great ways to get the best absorption of these lycopene-rich foods are recipes like spaghetti sauces, chilis, and tomato soup.

On the other hand, lycopene is also available in capsule and soft gel forms. Though it can be found as a supplement, it may be most effective when consumed from lycopene-rich foods like tomatoes and other red or pink fruits.

Previous reports have shown that lycopene from processed and heated tomato products is better absorbed than lycopene from raw tomatoes. 

Several factors contribute to this improved absorption, which are:

  • Heating and processing disintegrate the food matrix, hence making lycopene more bioavailable.
  • The conversion of all-trans lycopene to the cis-isomers during processing increases the absorption of lycopene into the body by up to 2.5 times.
  • Because of its lipophilic nature, lycopene absorption is improved when consumed with other lipids in the diet or cooked in an oil medium.

How much lycopene should men take daily?

Unlike the other carotenoids, lycopene does not have a beta-ionic ring at either end and therefore lacks vitamin A activity. Despite the non-toxicity and proven beneficial effects of lycopene, it is yet to be considered an essential dietary component. As such, there is no official recommended amount for the daily intake of lycopene.

Dosing lycopene administered as a pure compound has been studied in clinical trials at dosages of 7 to 75 mg/day. Lycopene is primarily available in capsule and soft gel form, with dosage guidelines from manufacturers ranging from 10 to 30 mg taken twice daily with meals.

Nutritional supplements, like lycopene, are not reviewed by the FDA for safety and effectiveness. Therefore, the effective daily dose can only be estimated based on what has been tested in studies. 

For example, one of the meta-analyses that looked at the connection between lycopene and prostate cancer included studies that had doses ranging from 3 to 21 mg per day.

Always speak with a healthcare provider before taking a supplement to ensure that the supplement and dosage are appropriate for your individual needs.

While there is no formal recommendation for lycopene intake, 2 to 75 milligrams (mg) per day have been commonly studied and proven safe. The length of use in studies is usually one to six months.

lycopene-prostate-cancer

Lycopene foods to add to your diet

Lycopene is one of many plant-based compounds that may play a notable role in human health. However, there is no recommended daily intake for lycopene, unlike many vitamins and minerals, as humans don’t need lycopene to survive.  Nevertheless, lycopene offers many potential benefits so regularly getting the compound in your diet makes sense. 

Lycopene is usually found in the foods we eat. You can discover lycopene in tomatoes, guava, grapefruit, watermelon, goji berries, tomato products, and other red fruits. 

Foods such as watermelon, tomatoes, grapefruit, papaya, and mangos have the highest amounts of lycopene. Some tomato products like sun-dried tomato and tomato paste are also high in lycopene. 

Considering the American diet then, tomatoes are a primary source of lycopene, and they generally contain higher amounts of lycopene when processed or cooked. Other foods like asparagus, persimmons, and red bell peppers also have some amount of lycopene.

Are there any side effects?

According to the United States food and drugs administration, lycopene is safe as no significant side effects have been reported. However, it is believed that despite the absence of any reported side effects, lycopene may still cause undesirable effects. There is, however, limited research on the side effects of lycopene.

Potential adverse effects include low blood pressure, increased risk of bleeding, and gastrointestinal issues. In addition, there have been reports of lycopenodermia (a condition in which the skin turns orange after eating large amounts of lycopene-rich foods). 

Stop the supplement and reach out to your healthcare provider if you do not feel well after taking lycopene. Ensure that you consult a healthcare provider before you start taking lycopene supplements.

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Conclusion

Lycopene has a lot of unique benefits for men. Let’s do a quick recap, shall we? 

We stated that lycopene gives certain fruits and vegetables their red or pink color. We also looked at certain health benefits like protecting cells in the body, acting as an antioxidant, protecting from sunlight, improving heart health, preventing and treating cancer, treating asthma, and improving bone health.

Another angle we looked at is the health benefits of lycopene to men. Some of our findings include: lycopene improves fertility in men, improves sperm quality, helps in treating and managing prostate health, etc.

Kindly note that the field of lycopene and its benefits to men is sparsely researched. Though the results so far are promising, the current findings in this article are based on the little amount of research that has been carried out. There may be many more health benefits of lycopene, especially to men, that we do not know about yet.

If you plan on consuming lycopene in the form of a capsule or gel as a supplement, ensure that you contact your healthcare provider before you start.

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Sources

  1. Przybylska, Sylwia. “Lycopene – a bioactive carotenoid offering multiple health benefits: a review.” International Journal of Food Science & Technology (2019). https://ifst.onlinelibrary.wiley.com/doi/abs/10.1111/ijfs.14260 
  2. Hedayati, N., Naeini, M.B., Nezami, A., Hosseinzadeh, H., Wallace Hayes, A., Hosseini, S., Imenshahidi, M. and Karimi, G. (2019), Protective effect of lycopene against chemical and natural toxins: A review. BioFactors, 45: 5-23. https://pubmed.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/30339717/ 
  3. Nouri, M, Amani, R, Nasr-Esfahani, M, Tarrahi, MJ. The effects of lycopene supplement on the spermatogram and seminal oxidative stress in infertile men: A randomized, double-blind, placebo-controlled clinical trial. Phytotherapy Research. 2019; 33: 3203– 3211. https://europepmc.org/article/med/31468596 
  4. Grabowska, M., , Wawrzyniak, D., , Rolle, K., , Chomczyński, P., , Oziewicz, S., , Jurga, S., , & Barciszewski, J., (2019). Let food be your medicine: nutraceutical properties of lycopene. Food & function, 10(6), 3090–3102. https://pubmed.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/31120074/ 
  5. Mozos, I., Stoian, D., Caraba, A., Malainer, C., Horbańczuk, J. O., & Atanasov, A. G. (2018). Lycopene and Vascular Health. Frontiers in pharmacology, 9, 521. https://pubmed.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/29875663/ 

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