Licofarma's Organic Lycopene
Lycopene is an antioxidant active ingredient that, because of its many beneficial properties, is increasingly being used for the production of dietary supplements and cosmetics. The quality of the active ingredient influences both its antioxidant action and its bioavailability and depends, primarily, on the type of production process by which it is obtained.
In fact, lycopene used in the formulation of dietary supplements and other preparations can be produced through two different processes: chemical synthesis or extraction from vegetables that contain it, first and foremost tomatoes. Here, then, it is possible to distinguish between two different qualities of the final active ingredient, namely synthetic and natural lycopene.
Synthetic Lycopene Produced by Chemical Synthesis
We speak of synthetic lycopene when the active ingredient is produced through a fairly complex chemical process. Basically, it starts from synthetic raw materials and, through the use of specific chemical solvents, crude lycopene crystals are obtained. The latter then undergo a further stage of filtration and recrystallization to be purified as much as possible from the residues of the solvents and materials used in the previous stages.
The synthetic lycopene crystals thus obtained have a regular shape but are large in size, a characteristic that makes synthetic lycopene an end product with low bioavailability. Numerous scientific studies, in fact, have shown that the bioavailability of lycopene increases as the size of its crystals decreases.
Furthermore, synthetic lycopene, despite the purification process it undergoes, may retain traces of the solvents used in its production and other impurities, some of which could be potentially toxic even at very low concentrations.
Finally, synthetic lycopene is very concentrated (90-95% by weight) and therefore for the production of dietary supplements it must be diluted with lipids and with the addition of preservatives and other chemical compounds. The main advantage of production by chemical synthesis is that you are freed from the seasonal availability of tomatoes.
Natural Lycopene Extracted from Plants by Traditional Process
Natural lycopene is that produced by biosynthesis from the fresh vegetable. Thus, in this case, we start from fresh tomato or tomato processing waste (peels) and, through the use of chemical solvents, extract the active ingredient.
The extraction process is non-selective, which means that, along with lycopene, other lipophilic substances found in tomatoes (ß-carotene, lutein, zeaxanthin, astaxanthin, tocopherols and tocotrienols, plant sterols, aromatic amino acids and polyunsaturated fatty acids) are extracted, which, in addition to enhancing the antioxidant activity of natural lycopene, result in the formation of smaller and less regular crystals than those of synthetic lycopene resulting in improved bioavailability of the final product.
However, even if the final product is considered safe, due to the extraction process, there is a possibility that even in the natural lycopene crystals some residues of the solvents used for extraction will be "trapped." In addition, depending on the cultivation method used, there may be traces of other contaminants in the final active ingredient, such as pesticides, dioxin or heavy metals that may be present in the fresh tomato and, in particular, in the skins.
As is the case with synthetic lycopene, therefore, natural lycopene is also "purified" through a recrystallization process to make it even safer. This step, however, results in a decrease in the antioxidant power of the final product since, along with the toxic residues, most of the co-extracted plant substances are also removed.
Finally, from the point of view of dietary supplement formulation, again the concentration of natural lycopene in the finished product is extremely high (about 60 percent by weight) and, therefore, must be diluted as is the case with the synthetic grade.
Licofarma's Organic Lycopene Extracted with Supercritical CO2
A third quality of lycopene, different from the synthetic and natural one, is the one produced by us at Licofarma through the innovative extraction process with supercritical CO2 developed and patented in collaboration with the University of Salento, CNR-ISPA - Institutes of Bari and Lecce and with the fundamental contribution of the Italian Ministry of Research (Project 7885/55 PAR 2001).
100% Free of Toxic-Noxious Residues and Certified Organic
(ICEA Certificate No.: IT BIO 006 PL0557)
Our lycopene is entirely organic and represents a unique product of excellence that differs from synthetic and natural lycopene in quality, bioavailability and total antioxidant action of the finished product. All these characteristics make organic lycopene a unique product compared to all other types of lycopene on the market.
To produce our organic lycopene we start from a lyophilized matrix obtained from whole tomatoes (not peels or other discards) that are certified organic, as they are cultivated following strict methods that not only exclude the use of GMOs and synthetic chemicals (fertilizers, parasiticides, pesticides), but also adopt biological control strategies against plant diseases, as established by EEC Regulation 2092/91.
Moreover, the use of supercritical CO2 as the only solvent excludes the possibility of contamination of the finished product, which is 100% natural and completely free of residues of organic solvents and/or other chemicals that are potentially toxic and harmful to health. In fact, the extraction process is carried out "cold" and is based on an exclusively physical principle that takes advantage of the solvent properties of carbon dioxide in the supercritical state, with no need for any kind of chemical reaction and no release of toxic and harmful chemicals into the environment.
Increased Antioxidant Activity
Like natural lycopene, organic lycopene contains other carotenoids and bioactive molecules naturally present in tomatoes that synergistically contribute to the beneficial effects of lycopene and increase its stability and bioavailability.
The difference lies in the fact that, thanks to the extraction process without chemical solvents that does not require a further purification steps, in organic lycopene these substances keep their biochemical characteristics and biological activity intact, increasing the antioxidant power of the final extract.
Recent studies, in fact, confirm that, thanks to the synergy between all the substances contained in the total extract (ß-carotene, lutein, zeaxanthin, astaxanthin, tocopherols and tocotrienols, Omega-3, Omega-6 and others), organic lycopene exhibits antioxidant activity as much as 100 times higher than a pure lycopene solution of the same concentration produced by the traditional method (natural lycopene).
Compared with synthetic and natural lycopene, organic lycopene has an excellent susceptibility to assimilation by the body.
This increased bioavailability is because through supercritical CO2 extraction, lycopene is not obtained in crystalline form, but the final product is a lycopene oleoresin (a solution of lycopene dissolved in a vegetable oil rich in unsaturated fatty acids).
During the extraction of lycopene from tomatoes with supercritical CO2, in fact, the lipid substances naturally present in the extraction matrices prevent the lycopene from aggregating into crystals, thus resulting in a product in which the lycopene is one with the lipid substances and other co-extraction compounds, called oleoresin.
The presence of lipids, moreover, promotes the formation of micelles/emulsions through which carotenoids are better absorbed and delivered to tissues through the bloodstream. Scientific studies also show that, other things being equal, the bioavailability of lycopene is significantly higher when consumed in the presence of ß-carotene and other plant lipids, as is the case with organic lycopene.
- Rescio L, Ciurlia L, Bleve M. Supercritical carbon dioxide co-extraction of tomatoes (Lycopersicum esculentum L.) and hazelnuts (corilus avellana L.). A new procedure on obtaining a source of natural lycopene. Journal of Supercritical Fluids 2009; 49:338-344.
- Rescio L, Ciurlia L, Vasapollo G, et al. Innovative supercritical CO2 extraction of Lycopene in the presence of vegetable oil as co-solvent. The Journal of Supercritical Fluids, Volume 29, N. 1-2, April 2004.
- Richelle M, Bortlik K, Liardet S, et al. A Food-Based Formulation Provides Lycopene with the Same Bioavailability to Humans as That from Tomato Paste. J Nutr 2002; 132:404-408.
- Fuhrman B, Volkova N, Rosenblat M, Aviram M. Lycopene synergistically inhibits LDL oxidation in combination with Vitamin E, glabridin, rosmarinic acid, carnosic acid, or garlic. Antioxid Redox Signal 2000 Fall.
- Johnson EJ, Qin J, Krinsky NI, Russell RM. Ingestion by Men of a Combined Dose of beta-Carotene and Lycopene Does Not Affect the Absorption of ß-Carotene but Improves that of Lycopene. J Nutr 1997; 127:1833-1837.