Lycopene is a type of carotenoid that is found in human skin as well as in the colon, prostate, lungs, liver and the adrenal glands. It is a phytochemical that is naturally occurring in red carrots, tomatoes, papayas, and watermelons. It also contains antioxidants and anti-proliferative properties. Studies have proposed the many benefits of taking this a lycopene supplement. These benefits include cancer prevention, stress protection, sunburn reduction, exercise-induced asthma reduction, and high cholesterol reduction.
Assessing Safe Levels of Lycopene
Consuming Lycopene within a normal balanced diet has been shown to produce no known side effects. Some studies suggest that consuming no more than 15 mg per day is relatively safe. Lycopene supplementation and its full potential side effect have not been established. However, there has been one study that revealed certain side effects from consuming 30 mg of the supplement each day.
Effects of High Lycopene Intake
- Immune system imbalance. Taking too much lycopene has the ability to hamper the functioning of your body's immune system and thus affect how your body protects and repairs itself. The body will develop an inability to fight off some common, microbes, bacteria, viruses, and diseases which can cause problems such as fever and inflammation.
- Deteriorating prostate cancer. More recent studies, however, are showing that lycopene can in fact worsen an already existing prostate cancer. It is also believed to increase the risk of lung cancer and other cardiovascular diseases, particularly in smokers.
- Allergic reaction. There are also those who are allergic to lycopene. This may present itself in the form of an itch, chest constriction or swelling. If any of these symptoms occur when taking the supplement immediately stop taking them. Other reported allergic reactions include skin hives and rashes.
- Intestinal problems. One study has shown that for some subjects who consumed 30mg of lycopene daily, they were prone to experience some intestinal problems such as bloating, gas, indigestion, diarrhea, vomiting, and nausea.
- Change in skin color. One of the long term effects that have been experience by a number of consumers is a slight change in their skin color. It can turn a bit orange.
Since lycopene is not considered an essential nutrient and is normally found in the diets that we consume each day, taking a high dosage seems to be unnecessary. Due to the potential for certain side effects, it is advised that lycopene supplements be taken as directed and in lower doses. Also there are other factors that will affect the amount we will need to consume, including things like age and general health. Currently a recommended dosage does not exist.
As with all unregulated supplements, it is best that you consult with your doctor or other healthcare professional prior to starting a lycopene regiment. This becomes even more necessary if you suffer from a pre-existing health condition.