Lutein and lycopene are antioxidant carotenoid compounds that help give red, orange and yellow fruits and vegetables, such as tomatoes and grapefruit, their color. Some research suggests that lutein and lycopene can benefit your health in a number ways, but dietary supplements may not be as effective as food sources of these compounds. To maintain maximal health, eat at least five servings of fruits and vegetables each day, making sure to include vegetables rich in lutein and lycopene.
Many observational studies carried out by scientists and doctors have shown a correlation between diets rich in tomato products and reduced cancer risks. Because tomatoes are rich in the antioxidant lycopene, many experts believe that lycopene may have a role in preventing cancer. The American Cancer Society details the evidence for lycopene in cancer prevention. While consumption of tomatoes may reduce your risk of getting prostate, lung or stomach cancer, more research needs to be done to determine if lycopene supplements can have a similar effect. Like lycopene, dietary sources of lutein may also help to prevent colon cancer, according to the Memorial Sloan-Kettering Cancer Center.
Macular Degeneration Prevention
Macular degeneration is an age-related eye disease that causes loss of vision in older individuals. The University of Maryland Medical Center explains that diets rich vegetables that contain lutein can help prevent macular degeneration. There is also some evidence that lutein in combination with zeaxanthin, another vegetable-pigment-based antioxidant, can reduce risk of macular degeneration. Dietary lycopene may also help to prevent macular degeneration.
Lutein, lycopene and other carotenoids can protect the skin from damage caused by sunlight or UV rays. The Bastyr Center for Natural Health summarizes a study of the use carotenoid supplements in promoting skin health. According to this research, people who took lutein and lycopene supplements had reduced skin damage and irritation upon exposure to UV light. The Lutein Information Bureau explains that lutein may also help to protect your skin from pollutants and toxins in the environment.
Intake Recommendations and Sources
The Institute of Medicine has not established a recommended daily intake for lutein and lycopene, but consuming 10 milligrams of each nutrient daily benefits your health, notes the Linus Pauling Institute. Cooked tomatoes, raw tomatoes, watermelon, red grapefruit and papaya offer beneficial lycopene, while leafy green veggies, like spinach and kale, offer ample amounts of lutein.