Lycopene for Diabetes

woman picking tomatoes
Lycopene is found naturally in tomatoes. Leren Lu/Stone/Getty Images

Lycopene is a natural substance thought to aid in diabetes control. Classified as a carotenoid, it's known to have potent antioxidant effects. Some research suggests that lycopene may help reduce oxidative stress (a key factor in diabetes development and progression).

Why Is Lycopene Used for Diabetes Control?

A destructive process linked to the buildup of free radicals within your body, oxidative stress appears to be closely associated with the development of insulin resistance and impaired glucose tolerance (a condition marked by abnormally high blood sugar levels).

Because insulin resistance and impaired glucose tolerance each play a major role in diabetes, it's thought that reducing oxidative stress can help manage this condition (as well as prevent its onset). Intake of antioxidant compounds such as lycopene is often touted as a natural approach to keeping oxidative stress in check.

Not only purported to help treat and prevent diabetes, lycopene is also said to protect against several diabetes-related complications related to oxidative stress (including issues with cardiovascular health).

The Science Behind Lycopene and Diabetes

To date, research on lycopene and diabetes has yielded mixed results.

For example, several studies have shown that use of lycopene supplements may fail to reduce diabetes risk. These include a study published in the American Journal of Epidemiology in 2006, in which researchers analyzed 10 years of data on a group of women (all of whom were age 45 or older at the start of the study).

In comparing data on 470 cases of diabetes with 470 diabetes-free study participants, the study's authors found no association between lycopene levels and diabetes risk.

However, there's some evidence that lycopene may help fight a number of diabetes-related complications. A small study published in the Journal of Endocrinological Investigation in 2007, for instance, found that use of lycopene supplements may help stave off cardiovascular complications in people with diabetes.

In a clinical trial involving 35 diabetes patients, the study's authors observed that those given lycopene supplements for two months experienced a greater improvement in certain measures of cardiovascular health (such as factors involved in the development of atherosclerosis), compared to study members given a placebo for the same time period.

What's more, preliminary research in animals indicates that lycopene may help prevent diabetes-related cognitive decline and diabetes-related kidney damage.


According to the National Institutes of Health (NIH), lycopene is likely safe when consumed in appropriate amounts. The NIH also state that dietary supplements containing up to 120 mg of lycopene appear to be safe for daily use for up to one year.

While lycopene supplements may be safe for most individuals, it's crucial to keep in mind that self-treating diabetes with lycopene (or any other type of dietary supplements) and avoiding or delaying physician-prescribed treatment may greatly raise your risk of many diabetes-related complications (some of which can be life-threatening).

Using Lycopene to Fight Diabetes?

Although lycopene may not help reduce diabetes risk, some research suggests that this compound may offer other beneficial health effects. For example, there's some evidence that lycopene may help enhance heart health, keep blood pressure in check, and protect against some forms of cancer.

To increase your lycopene intake without using lycopene supplements, try boosting your consumption of lycopene-rich foods such as tomato, watermelon, papaya, pink grapefruit, apricot, and guava.

It should be noted that heat-based processing of raw tomatoes changes the fruit's naturally available lycopene into a form that's easier for your body to use. Therefore, tomato products like tomato paste and tomato juice may provide a better source of lycopene (compared to raw tomatoes).

If you're thinking of including lycopene supplements in your diabetes management plan, make sure to talk to your doctor before starting your supplement regimen.


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Disclaimer: The information contained on this site is intended for educational purposes only and is not a substitute for advice, diagnosis or treatment by a licensed physician. It is not meant to cover all possible precautions, drug interactions, circumstances or adverse effects. You should seek prompt medical care for any health issues and consult your doctor before using alternative medicine or making a change to your regimen.

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