Lycopene Review

Lycopene is a phytonutrient—a high-powered antioxidant that may promote heart health, may lower bad cholesterol and may help prevent cancer. May being the operative word.

Abundant in tomatoes especially, but also in watermelon, grapefruit, carrots and a variety of other foods, lycopene may be helpful as part of an actual diet and exercise program to get fit, but as a magic weight-loss bullet on its own? No.

That said, some lycopene supplements on the market and a few lycopene-related diets claim to aid in fat reduction, despite the lack of any real evidence to support a claim it triggers weight loss.

Lycopene Claims

Lycopene does not hit any weight-loss markers; including kick-starting metabolism, fat burning, or suppressing appetite. Yet the bizarre Night Tomato Diet is said to work because of the lycopene in tomatoes. Yes, you eat a lot of tomatoes. At night. This is the claim:

Putting more tomatoes on your plate can help you lose weight…the key point of the Night Tomato Diet emphasizes taking in Lycopene found in tomatoes. In order to get results, it’s important that you take in at least 15 mg of tomato Lycopene per day. When choosing to do this by eating raw tomatoes, the redder the better …which have three times more Lycopene than pink tomatoes. [1]

But, it turns out, even the Night Tomato Diet with lycopene has the little asterisk. You will not “lose 10 pounds in 3 weeks…in dieting there are no shortcuts, just hard work and lifting self-esteem. There is nothing wrong with that, that’s the tomato diet.” So the claim is rebutted by the claimant.

The Science (or Lack Thereof) Behind Lycopene

A much-sourced—yet often criticized—Chinese study from 2015 found that lycopene ingestion via tomato juice “reduces waist circumference, as well as serum cholesterol and inflammatory adipokine levels in young healthy women and that these effects are unrelated to body fat changes.” [2]

Unrelated to body fat changes. In other words, lycopene does not help you lose body fat. The study of 25 women—which did not include a control group of women who did not consume tomato juice—found the lycopene “decreased inflammatory adipokine levels unrelated with body fat change.” [2]

Reducing inflammation does not equal weight loss.

As I said, this study is often used to support claims. But the 25 healthy young women who drank a glass of tomato juice every day for two months saw a decrease in waistline, on average, of only two-thirds of an inch and about a pound of weight lost. Two-thirds of an inch and one pound gone in two months. Some nutritionists found the study promising, believing “tomatoes could play a key role in controlling weight gain,” but skeptics just found the whole study flawed. [3]

Still, another study in the same year from Shiraz University of Medical Sciences in Iran suggest that lycopene from tomatoes may “reduce oxidative stress in overweight (and possibly obese) females and, therefore, may prevent obesity related diseases and promote health.” [4]

Again, antioxidant properties and may prevent obesity-related diseases, but not trigger weight loss.

The National Institutes of Health says “a review of the epidemiological literature…suggests that it is still too early to determine whether tomatoes or lycopene have health benefits.” [5]

And WebMD says that while lycopene is probably safe to take as a supplement—except for pregnant or nursing women—there simply is no evidence whatsoever that lycopene supplements have any positive health effects and there is no evidence whatsoever, they say, that lycopene in any form promotes or triggers weight loss. [6]

The Mayo Clinic says there’s simply insufficient evidence for any and all claims about lycopene. It graded every claim a “C,” meaning “Unclear scientific evidence for this use.” [7]

And even so-called “experts”—who may be little more than self-proclaimed—aren’t bothering to tout lycopene supplements. We rarely quote personalities like Dr. Axe on this site, but this actually lends weight to the peer-reviewed science:

One of the best ways to ensure your body absorbs the highest lycopene content possible is to add heat and healthy fats to tomatoes, such as making homemade tomato sauce for pasta. The change in lycopene molecules this causes (from linear to bent) can’t usually be found in commercially produced pasta sauce.

Its best to consume lycopene foods. Supplements are often not what you would expect, they’re more likely to cause negative drug interactions and they won’t yield the same results as dietary lycopene. [8]

There you have it. It could not be any plainer that, despite what purveyors of lycopene as a weight loss aid claim, it is worthless.

Word on the Street About Lycopene

Among the most popular lycopene supplements on Amazon is Puritan’s Pride. And while most reviewers don’t appear to be taking the supplement for weight loss, the ones who are love it and claim it works. [9]

Like Amazon user and reviewer “emz” (2016, 5 stars):

This is an excellent product. I have been using this for over 6 months and feel that it has helped me in lowering my LDL levels and losing fat around my midsection. I have been using it along with Cholestene (red yeast product) and my health care provider was very impressed that my LDL levels had dropped 50 points over the 6 month period. This brand has one of the higher concentrations for the price. [10]

Another kind of weird lycopene supplement from Japan, “Tomato Lycopene Diet Slim Rapid Weight Loss Formula” is sold on eBay and other sites, and while it has product reviews, there’s little said—just stars. It’s hard to know what to make of this supplement, but if you can spare about $60 and think it might be an interesting experiment, more power to you. [11]

eBay also sells a brand from India called INLIFE, which is apparently well-reviewed there but I was unable to access those reviews. [12]

The Bottom Line: Are Lycopene Supplements Worth a Try?

Definitely not. No. Just no. There’s literally no evidence that there’s any true effectiveness with lycopene…yet. Far more study is needed. What we do know is that lycopene is no weight loss elixir. It won’t hurt you and may even have benefits though much more research must be done. But if you’re already a believer and want to get some lycopene in your body, great. Just make sure to get it through foods; don’t bother with supplements. At least that’s what the experts say.

Review Sources

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