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Lycopene and Pharmacokinetics: How it Works

Every so often you may hear the word lycopene mentioned on a television commercial, advertising ketchup or see it added as the main health benefit splashed across the label of a popular tomato juice. Most people correlate lycopene as something good for our bodies, but do not know why. Therefore, by applying the practice of pharmakinetics, scientists have been able to harness the definition of the effects of lycopene on the human body. However, to understand the relationship between lycopene and pharmokinetics is to first understand the definition of each.


Mainly found in red colored fruits and vegetables (with the exception of strawberries and cherries), lycopene is a natural carotene. A carotene is a strong antioxidant capable of assisting in fighting off potential disease causing, free radicals roaming the body like enemy combatants. It also works in conjunction with the synthesis of beta carotene, which is responsible for part of the pigmentation process, synthesis and protection of red colored foods. Because of this, lycopene can also be used as a natural food coloring agent.

Lycopene often receives a large amount of attention including its own advertising campaign stamped onto tomato products, such as ketchup and pasta sauce, due to its potential healing properties for such ailments as cancer, particularly of the prostate. Other foods high in lycopene include: watermelon, red bell pepper, pink grapefruit and papaya.     


This is the practice of exploring the beginning, middle and end of any drug ingested by a living organism. Using specific models and applying them to five protocol markers (to determine a drug's path) is how pharmokinetics works. The five protocol markers are:

  • Liberation
  • Absorption
  • Distribution
  • Metabolism  
  • Excretion

Using these five markers, also known as LADME, scientists are able to asses the full spectrum of a drug's path and how it affects surrounding tissue.

Pharmokinetic Findings of the Effect of Lycopene

Pharmakinetic findings show great promise when certain levels of lycopene are ingested. Although the amount varies, results indicate that the prostate is found to benefit greatly when even small doses of lycopene are ingested. As little as ten to thirty milligrams per day has been found to be useful in combating free radicals. Lycopene could also be detected in other organs throughout the body. One pharmokinetic study from the American Association for Cancer Research (AACR) entitled, Cancer Epidemology, Biomarkers and Prevention, breaks down one such study of lycopene in great detail.

The pharmakinetics of this particular study revolved around the subject age and gender, the administration of the lycopene - which in this study was a tomato paste - which tissues lycopene embedded itself in and how it affected that tissue. In this case, lycopene was found to have positive effects on the adrenal glands, liver, spleen, lymph nodes and intestines. Other cancers currently being studied in relation to lycopene are stomach, breast, intestinal, lung cervix and brain cancer. 

Through pharmakinetics, a broader view is achieved. In the case of lycopene and pharmakinetics, more benefits have emerged. Finding what was once thought to only be a natural remedy for prostate cancer, lycopene has brought with it a few more benefits than once thought. Either by eating lycopene rich foods or taking lycopene supplements, according to the pharmakinetic study, lycopene is an excellent addition to the human diet.

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