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Lycopene is one of over 600 phytochemicals called carotenoids with very powerful disease-fighting capabilities, particularly against prostate cancer. Lycopene is a bright red carotenoid pigment found in tomatoes. The name is derived from the tomato's species classification, Lycopersicum lycopersicum. Tomato-based products such as tomato sauce, tomato soup, and tomato juice have the most concentrated source of lycopene. Cooked tomato sauces are associated with greater health benefits, compared to uncooked, because the heating process makes lycopene more easily absorbed by the body. Also, lycopene is fat-soluble, meaning that in order for the body to absorb it, it has to be eaten with at least a small amount of fat. Lycopene has been associated with a reduced risk for many cancers and protection against heart attacks, though research continues on other potential health benefits.

Lycopene (shown below) has an open ring structure not the closed ionone ring found in beta carotene.


Lycopene, being naturally so prevalent in a common foodstuff, has been licensed for use as a food additive. Its approved use is as a food colouring, though research has shown that it is also a powerful antioxidant, with possibly beneficial effects on health.

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