To study the relationship between lycopene intake and plasma concentration, ten healthy female subjects were given one or more portions of tomato purée or fresh raw tomato containing 16.5 mg total lycopene (all-trans + cis forms). In Expt 1 subjects (n 9) were randomly assigned the single portions of the two tomato products and blood samples were collected to follow the change in plasma carotenoid concentrations within the first 12 h and on each of the following 5 d (104 h). In Expt 2 subjects (n 10) were divided into two groups of five each receiving daily dietary portions of tomato purée or fresh raw tomato containing 16.5 mg total lycopene for 7 d. Fasting blood samples were collected daily. In Expt 1 the plasma total lycopene (all-trans + cis forms) concentration, after the single portions of tomato purée and raw tomato, varied significantly over time, with a first peak reached after 6 h, a further increase after 12 h and a slow decrease until 104 h. In Expt 2, when the tomato products were given daily, there was a day-by-day increase in the plasma total lycopene concentration, and through the following week of a diet without tomato there was a gradual decrease. However, values did not return to basal concentrations. Plasma total lycopene concentration was higher after the tomato purée intake than after the raw tomato in both the first (F(1,8) 7.597; P < 0.025) and the second experiments (F(1,8) 12.193; P < 0.01) demonstrating a significant effect of food matrix on absorption.