Protecting Your Eye Health With Lycopene

Lycopene is a powerful antioxidant found naturally in foods. It protects your eyes and benefits your overall health in several ways, but particularly supports the prevention of degeneration from occurring. Here’s what you need to know about lycopene.

7 minute read

Last Updated July 15, 2020

Protecting Your Eye Health With Lycopene

Lycopene is a carotenoid. This is a natural pigment that gives fruits and vegetables their red coloring. Unlike other carotenoids, lycopene does not contain vitamin A, but it is a powerful antioxidant. This allows it to provide several health benefits and protective effects for the body. 

Lycopene can be found naturally in foods as well as supplemental form. Both versions are easily digestible and beneficial for your health. 

Lycopene for Eye Health

The carotene family is known to significantly protect vision and protect eye health. Lycopene is no different. The powerful antioxidant properties of lycopene make it a beneficial nutrient for eye health. Your eyes, along with the skin, are exposed to harmful light and environmental toxins all day. As a result of this, they are more at risk of oxidative damage and disease. 

Oxidative damage results from the presence of excess free radicals. These are produced naturally as a product of metabolic processes in the body. They can accumulate when the body is unable to detoxify efficiently. Antioxidant compounds, such as lycopene, scavenge these free radicals, preventing damage to cells and tissues. In this way, lycopene protects your eyes from conditions that can lead to blindness.

Glaucoma

Glaucoma is one of the leading causes of vision loss in adults over the age of 60. There often are no symptoms until the condition has progressed. 

Vision loss is caused by excess pressure on the optic nerve. The aqueous humor fluid in your eye naturally passes through, but in some cases, it gets blocked. When blocked, the fluid accumulates, and pressure in the eye increases. Oxidative damage occurs as a result. 

Lycopene collects in the eye, allowing it to protect against this disease. Providing health and strength to the eye, lycopene helps prevent any degeneration from occurring. 

Macular Degeneration

Macular degeneration is also responsible for vision loss. This disease typically occurs in older individuals, as eye health deteriorates with age. There is no cure, but treatment can slow the progression. 

Fatty deposits accumulate below the retina, causing vision loss. Oxidative damage to sensitive eye tissues leads to fatty deposit accumulation. By preventing this damage, lycopene reduces the risk of degeneration and disease. 

Cataracts

Cataracts are characterized as cloudy areas on the lens of the eye. Vision is cloudy and can be lost if left untreated. Oxidative stress has been linked to an increased risk of developing cataracts. 

As an antioxidant agent, lycopene protects the eye and can delay the development of cataracts. When cataracts already exist, lycopene can help to reduce the risk of further damage and further vision loss.

Direct damage to the retina is common as a result of excess blue light exposure. Blue light is emitted from monitors, tablets, and television screens, and artificial lighting. Excessive exposure is common in everyday workplaces, and this damages the retina. 

Blue light can penetrate through to the retina and cause oxidative stress to the sensitive cells. Your retina converts visual images from the lens into neural signals for your brain to decode. A damaged retina results in defective vision and possibly blindness.

When taken daily, lycopene collects in the eye and forms a protective barrier. Blue light can still get through, but lycopene prevents any oxidative damage to retinal cells. This protection not only reduces the risk of serious disease and degenerative conditions, but it boosts eye health. 

A reduction in oxidative damage will promote an increased range of vision and better visual performance. 

Additional Benefits of Lycopene

Lycopene is a natural protective agent for vision. The antioxidant properties of this carotenoid provide benefits outside of the eyes. Other aspects of your health can also benefit from lycopene. 

Cancer: The antioxidant quality of lycopene has been found to slow the progression of certain cancers. By limiting tumor growth, lycopene can slow breast and prostate cancers. It has also been shown to reduce the growth of cancer cells in the kidneys. Consuming lycopene was also linked to a reduced risk of developing these cancers. Intake of between 9 and 21 milligrams per day appears to be the most beneficial when it comes to cancer prevention

Heart: Metabolic syndrome is a collection of conditions that increase the risk of heart disease. High cholesterol is one of these conditions. Lycopene reduces LDL (bad) cholesterol levels, which increases HDL (good) levels. Oxidative damage to heart tissues additionally increases the risk of heart attack or stroke. Lycopene can protect against this by preventing free radicals from causing harm. 

Skin protection: Your skin needs daily protection from the harmful UV rays of the sun. The oxidative damage that occurs to skin tissue causes premature aging. This increases your risk of skin cancer. Excessive sunlight exposure causes sunburn, which only increases this risk. Lycopene, when applied as a topical solution, protects against sunburn. Skin redness and pain are reduced, along with the risk of more serious complications. 

Taking Lycopene

The amount of lycopene you can benefit from will depend on several factors. Age, health, and medical conditions are important when calculating the dosage. 

Before starting any supplement, speak with your doctor to evaluate how much you need. As a natural product, lycopene supplements are considered safe for consumption.

In rare cases, skin discoloration has been reported after taking lycopene supplements. This has only been reported when high doses have been consumed. The high levels needed to achieve this are not possible with dietary intake or high-quality supplements. Lycopene can also interfere with blood thinner medications. Before starting a supplement, consult with your doctor if you are taking any medications. 

The Bottom Line

Lycopene naturally protects your eyes and benefits your overall health in several ways. The antioxidant qualities of lycopene make it beneficial to human health. Specifically, lycopene can protect your eyes from damage. 

The sun and blue light exposure increase the risk of serious eye damage and irreversible conditions. Prevention and protection is the only way to reduce risk and prevent blindness.

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