What is Lycopene
Lycopene is a carotenoid, an extremely powerful antioxidant considered much stronger than other plant carotenoid compounds. The main biological function of lycopene is in the body’s antioxidant barrier, and hormonal regulation. Highly reactive oxygen species, called (ROS), are natural products of metabolic processes. As extremely strong oxidants, (ROS) are also recognized as triggers in some health conditions. Chronic diseases, degenerative changes, as well as health changes while we age or factors limiting our life span are all related to the body’s oxidative stress build up. The defensive efficiency of our antioxidant barrier helps to neutralize ROS, and consequently, improves our resistance to diseases and slows down aging processes. This antioxidant barrier efficiency depends on the amount of plant antioxidants we consume in our daily diet. Lycopene is most abundant in tomatoes and other bright red fruits (watermelons, red grapefruits, and wild rose hips). Lycopene is best absorbed from foods processed with oil (tomato paste, tomato sauce, ketchup, etc).
Lycopene, one of the most important carotenoids, is a fat-soluble and water-insoluble bright red compound absorbing light at 472 nm (in petroleum ether solvent). Lycopene is a tetraterpene assembled from eight isoprene units, with the molecular formula C40H56 and a molecular mass of 536.85 g/mol (1). Its isoprene units form a 40-atom carbon chain containing 11 linearly arranged conjugated double bonds and two single double bonds. Lycopene doesn’t have closed ionone rings and, therefore, it doesn’t have provitamin A properties. Lycopene’s all-trans double bonds can form mono- or poly-cis isomers under certain conditions of light or temperature, or in certain chemical reactions. The most common thermodynamically stable isomers are: 5-cis, 9-cis, 13-cis, 15-cis (1, 2).