Tissue Contents and Kinetics of Lycopene Turnover

Once absorbed, passively from lipid micelles by the enterocyte, lycopene enters the portal lymphatics and thence the liver, from which it enters the peripheral bloodstream, mainly in association with the ^-lipoproteins, in which it is transported to the peripheral tissues. Its half-life in plasma is of the order of 12-33 days; longer than that of ^-carotene, which is less than 12 days. Clearly, many of these factors are interdependent, and there is a need for further clarification of the key independent determinants of lycopene status, and whether plasma levels can provide an adequate picture of tissue and whole body status.

Patients with alcoholic cirrhosis of the liver have greatly reduced hepatic lycopene concentrations; indeed, hepatic lycopene seems to offer a sensitive index of hepatic health. Studies of organ concentrations (Table 3), suggest a gradient from circulating levels in plasma to different ones in specific tissues. The different carotenoid ratios between organs (not shown) also indicate selective transport and accumulation. However, the mechanisms involved are poorly understood. No lycopene is detectable in the retina or lens of the eye, where lutein and zeax-anthin are found; however, lycopene is present in the ciliary body.

Table 3 Concentrations of lycopene reported in human tissues


Range of mean or median lycopene concentrations (nmol per g wet weight)


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