Tomatoes versus lycopene in oxidative stress and carcinogenesis: conclusions from clinical trials

Eur J Clin Nutr. 2007 Mar;61(3):295-303. doi: 10.1038/sj.ejcn.1602510. Epub 2006 Aug 16.


Objective: To review the effects of tomato product supplementation, containing lycopene, on biomarkers of oxidative stress and carcinogenesis in human clinical trials.

Results: Supplementation of tomato products, containing lycopene, has been shown to lower biomarkers of oxidative stress and carcinogenesis in healthy and type II diabetic patients, and prostate cancer patients, respectively. Processed tomato products like tomato juice, tomato paste, tomato puree, tomato ketchup and tomato oleoresin have been shown to provide bioavailable sources of lycopene, with consequent increases in plasma lycopene levels versus baseline. Dietary fats enhance this process and should be consumed together with food sources of lycopene. The mechanisms of action involve protection of plasma lipoproteins, lymphocyte DNA and serum proteins against oxidative damage, and anticarcinogenic effects, including reduction of prostate-specific antigen, upregulation of connexin expression and overall decrease in prostate tumor aggressiveness. There is limited in vivo data on the health benefits of lycopene alone. Most of the clinical trials with tomato products suggest a synergistic action of lycopene with other nutrients, in lowering biomarkers of oxidative stress and carcinogenesis.

Conclusions: Consumption of processed tomato products, containing lycopene, is of significant health benefit and can be attributed to a combination of naturally occurring nutrients in tomatoes. Lycopene, the main tomato carotenoid, contributes to this effect, but its role per se remains to be investigated.

Publication types

  • Research Support, Non-U.S. Gov't
  • Review

MeSH terms

  • Anticarcinogenic Agents / pharmacokinetics
  • Anticarcinogenic Agents / pharmacology*
  • Antioxidants
  • Biological Availability
  • Biomarkers
  • Carotenoids / pharmacokinetics
  • Carotenoids / pharmacology*
  • Diabetes Mellitus, Type 2 / metabolism
  • Dietary Fats / pharmacology
  • Dietary Supplements
  • Female
  • Humans
  • Lycopene
  • Lycopersicon esculentum* / chemistry
  • Male
  • Oxidative Stress / drug effects*
  • Prostatic Neoplasms / metabolism


  • Anticarcinogenic Agents
  • Antioxidants
  • Biomarkers
  • Dietary Fats
  • Carotenoids
  • Lycopene