Lycopene –a potent antioxidant and anti-aging compound
Lycopene is a carotenoid (pigments produced by plants) and is the reason for the red colour in fruits and vegetables. It is a very beneficial substance, although unlike other carotenoids it does not convert to vitamin A when consumed. This means Lycopene is a directly active molecule and is used by the body as it is (Higdon 2004). Among its numerous benefits: the antioxidant and anti-aging properties of Lycopene are remarkable. It tends to be very effective on tissues which are high in fat or lipid content. Skin is high in lipids and that is why Lycopene plays such a significant role in protecting your skin.
Skin aging by UV radiations and Reactive Oxygen Species
All of the body’s organs age with time, however, signs of aging are (by definition) more prominent on the skin, the largest organ. More to the point, skin is in direct contact with the environment and is more exposed to stresses (of the external environment in particular). Research shows that aging due to sun exposure (photo-aging) and time related aging processes are closely related. It means that exposure to UV radiation will speed up the process of appearance of wrinkles and pigmentation associated with aging (Fisher 2002).
Reactive Oxygen Species (ROS), or oxygen radicals, advances the aging process of skin. Your skin is constantly under oxidative damage which leads to the appearance of wrinkles and pigmentation. Using antioxidants will impede the process of aging and keep the skin safe from oxidative stress (Masaki 2010).
Lycopene and the fight against anti-aging
Lycopene acts in three ways to slow down and reverse the process of aging:
- It acts as an antioxidant
- It acts as a sunscreen
- It plays a role in protecting your DNA
Lycopene as an anti-oxidant
Antioxidants are compounds that neutralize the free radical – they are also called ‘free radical scavengers’ – and protects against cell damage due to free reactive species of oxygen and nitrogen, among other things. Lycopene is probably the best antioxidant and even more potent than beta-carotene. It is a very good scavenger of oxygen radicals (Valko 2007).
Lycopene is also regarded as THE best anti-aging substance available in supplement form. The reason is that after reacting with oxygen radicals, it is regenerated. That is, it is not destroyed after the reaction. It is again available for the detoxification of the body from dangerous species.
It is interesting to note that Lycopene, as a potent antioxidant, not only decreases the process of aging of the body overall but also reduces the appearance of wrinkles and pigmentation due to sun exposure.
It is thought that sun rays damage the collagen in skin. Firmness of skin is due to bonds of collagen fibres. This collagen repairs imperfectly and skin loses its original structure. It leads to formation of ‘solar scaring’ and ultimately skin damage and wrinkles. Scientists suggest that by having an antioxidant treatment before-hand we can protect the body from damage.
Our skin also has supple protective enzymes and antioxidants but the skin’s protective mechanism is improved by taking better nutrition and antioxidants (Pandel 2013). So, although application of Lycopene will be effective, consumption of Lycopene will have a more profound protective effect.
Lycopene as a sunscreen
Lycopene does help protect our skin from exposure to UV radiation. Its SPF (sun protection factor) rating is 3, and is a level that gives protection from indirect sunlight or the light which passes through a window. An additional benefit of Lycopene is the ability to adjust and normalize intercellular gap junction communication and thus further improving your skin’s texture (Venket 2000). As Lycopene is destroyed by UV exposure, it is crucial that Lycopene is replaced; and a proven and reliable supplement intake is the best way to ensure that replacement!
The role in protecting DNA
DNA damage is a key aging process overall. By supplementing Lycopene in your diet, it plays a major role in stabilizing the DNA structure of your skin and maintains the DNA repair pathway.
Other benefits of Lycopene
Lycopene protects against heart attack (Rao 2003), reduces LDL ‘bad cholesterol’ level and protects against oxidative damage caused by LDL, it boosts the immune system and improves the communication between cells by enhancing intercellular gap junction communication. It is the most abundant carotenoid in prostate, testes and adrenal glands (Rao 2002). This indicates that it plays a significant role in reproductive system. Lycopene is found to reduce the risk of cancer and HIV. It is now being used to treat Alzheimer’s disease, and hence it plays role in maintaining a healthy nervous system. It also helps to maintain hormonal balance and the overall metabolism of the body.
Why Lycopene should be taken?
As Lycopene is the major carotenoid in the human body, and it is also the most abundant carotenoid naturally occurring in the human body. Lycopene is found in tissues and plasma in high concentrations, but the level of Lycopene degrades with age. Regular intake of Lycopene will keep the body younger and healthier (Lycocard 2006). Among the multiple benefits it provides, it’s role in anti-aging is noteworthy. It acts as an antioxidant, DNA damage protectant and a mild sunscreen. Lycopene slows down, as well as reverses, the signs of aging. By making this red pigmented compound a part of your daily diet, you can look and feel much younger!
The recommended daily intake is at least 35 mg.
- Higdon J. (2009) α-Carotene, β-Carotene, β-Cryptoxanthin, Lycopene, Lutein, and Zeaxanthin Linus Pauling Institute
- Fisher GJ, Kang S, Varani J, Bata-Csorgo Z, Wan Y, Datta S, Voorhees JJ. (2002) Mechanisms of photoaging and chronological skin aging Archives of Dermatology, vol. 138, no. 11, pp. 1462-1470.
- Masaki H, (2010) Role of antioxidants in the skin: Anti-aging effects Journal of Dermatological Science, vol. 58, no. 2, pp. 85-90
- Valko M, Leibfritz D, Moncol J, Cronin MTD, Mazur M, Telser J. (2007) Free radicals and antioxidants in normal physiological functions and human disease The International Journal of Biochemistry & Cell Biology, vol. 39, no. 1, pp. 44-84
- FREE PDF: Pandel R, Poljšak B, Godic A, Dahmane R. (2013) Skin Photoaging and the Role of Antioxidants in Its Prevention University of Ljubljana. ISRN Dermatology, vol. 2013, no. 11.
- FREE PDF: Venket Rao A, Agarwal S. (2000) Role of Antioxidant Lycopene in Cancer and Heart Disease University of Toronto. Journal of the American College of Nutrition, Vol. 19, No. 5, 563–569
- FREE PDF: Rao LG, Guns E, Venket Rao A. (2003) Lycopene: Its role in human health and disease University of Toronto AGROFood, July/August, p25
- Rao VA. (2002) Lycopene, tomatoes, and the prevention of coronary heart disease US National Library of Medicine Nov;227(10):908-13
- Lycocard (2006) Lycopene and Human Health European Commission. Sixth Framework Programme