Carotenoids, a family of pigments of which lycopene is a member, are found naturally in fruits and vegetables, particularly in tomatoes. Synthetic lycopene has recently been given GRAS status by the FDA. This paves the way for the ingredient to be used to fortify foods as the demand for so-called antioxidants is vast. Hot on the market is a newly GRASed tomato oleoresin brand (Lyc-O-Mato®) with natural lycopene and other phytonutrients. These phytonutrients act in synergy with lycopene to produce a powerful antioxidant effect.
Although several fruits including watermelon, pink grapefruit and papaya contain lycopene, tomatoes and tomato based products account for 85% of the dietary lycopene in North America. There is considerable support of the usefulness of lycopene. Studies have found that lycopene is easily absorbed and stored in the prostate, adrenal glands and testes. Additionally, there exists an association between lowered risk of breast and bladder cancer with a high concentration of lycopene in the plasma.