Lycopene belongs to carotenoid family that is a natural pigment synthesized exclusively by plant and microorganisms. Lycopene is a natural constituent of red fruits and vegetables and of certain algae and fungi (Olempska – Beer, 2005). Lycopene is widely used in the food industry as a food additive due to its strong color and non-toxicity. It is approved for food use with registering as 160d (i) - synthetic lycopene, 160d (ii) – lycopene extract from tomato, 160d (iii) – lycopene Blakeslea trispora.

Lycopene and other carotenoid are responsible for red color of many kinds of fruit and vegetable in nature. Many fruit and vegetable is known to containing lycopene such as tomato, watermelon, pink guava, pink grapefruit, papaya, apricot and so on (Table 1).

Table 1: Lycopene contents of common fruit and vegetables

Fruit/ vegetables

Lycopene (µg/g of weight)





Pink guava


Pink grapefruit






Source Rao & Agarwal (1999)


Blakeslea trispora is a fungal plant pathogen. It is known as a source to produce lycopene and is also the microbe used for producing commercial β-carotene for dietary supplements and food additives. Lycopene from B. trispora is produced by mating and co-fermentation of two non-pathogenic and non-toxigenic strains. Lycopene is extracted by isopropanol and isobutyl acetate from the biomass and purified by filtration and crystallization. Pure lycopene crystals are unstable when exposed to oxygen and light so lycopene is stored under nitrogen or other inert gases in light-proof containers. Olempska-Beer (2005) indicated that lycopene from B. trispora contains at least 90% of all-trans-lycopene and minor quantities of 13-cis-lycopene and β- and γ-carotene.

Humans and animals cannot synthesize lycopene, and thus amount of lycopene in them depend on dietary sources. Of the more than 700 carotenoids in nature, there are 50 kinds may be absorbed and metabolized by the human body.  Only 14 carotenoids have been identified in human serum, and lycopene is the most abundant. Lycopene is particularly high concentration in the prostate gland, adrenal glands, skin, liver and kidneys (Shi & Magure, 2000). Unlike other carotenoid, lycopene cannot be converted into vitamin A. The ability of lycopene to act as a potent antioxidant is thought to be responsible for protecting cells against oxidative damage and thereby decreasing the risk of chronic diseases (Rao & Agrawal, 1999). Antioxidant capacity of lycopene was more than double that of β-carotene and 10 times more than that of α-tocopherol.

Several recent studies have been shown that dietary intake of tomatoes and tomato products containing lycopene associated with a decreased risk of chronic diseases (Rao & Agrawal  2000).  Dorgan et al.(1998) also indicated that serum and tissue lycopene levels have been found to be inversely related to the incidence of several types of cancer, including breast cancer and bladder cancer. Lower serum lycopene levels were found associated with increased risk and mortality from coronary heart disease. Similarly, Periquet et al (1995) also reported that lower serum lycopene levels were in human immunodeficiency virus (HIV) positive women and also in children infected with HIV.

Lycopene is not only reducing the risk of chronic diseases but also used to beautiful products. It is a common ingredient in anti-aging creams due to its potent antioxidant. Lycopene can decrease inflammation and help to protect the skin from damage resulting from UV sun exposure (Stahl et al, 2001).


Dorgan, J.F., Sowell A., Swanson, C.A., Potischman, N., Miller. R., Schussler. N. & Stephenson, H.E. (1998). Relationship of serum carotenoids, retinol, a-tocopherol, and selenium with breast cancer risk results from a prospective study in Columbia, Missouri (United States). Cancer Causes Control. 9, 89-97.

Olempska – Beer, Z. (2005). Lycopene from Blakeslea trispora chemical and technical assessment (CTA). Food and Drug Administration

Periquet, B.A., Jammes, N.M., Lambert, W.E., Tricoire. J., Moussa, M.M., Garcia, J., Ghisolfi, J., Thouvenot, J.P. 1995. Micronutrient levels in HIV-l-infected children. AIDS.  Journal of Womens Health. 9,  887-993.

Rao, A.V., & Agarwal, S. (1999). Role of lycopene as antioxidant carotenoid in the prevention of chronic diseases: A review. Nutrition Research. 19(2), 305-323.

Shi, J., & Manguer, M.L. (2000). Lycopene in tomatoes: chemical and physical properties affected by food processing. Food Science Nutrition. 40, 1-42.

Stahl, W., Heinrich, U., Wiseman. S., Eichler, O., Sies, H., & Tronnier, H. Dietary tomato paste protects against ultraviolet light – induced erythema in humans.2001. Journal of Nutrition, 131(5), 1449-1451.

Nguyen Thi Hoang Lan

Faculty of Food Science and Technology