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Exp Biol Med (Maywood). 2002 Nov;227(10):914-9.

Bioavailability of all-trans and cis-isomers of lycopene.

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  • 1Department of Human Nutrition and Food Management, The Ohio State University, Columbus, OH 43210, USA.


Lycopene, the predominant carotenoid in tomatoes, is among the major carotenoids in serum and tissues of Americans. Although about 90% of the lycopene in dietary sources is found in the linear, all-trans conformation, human tissues contain mainly cis-isomers. Several research groups have suggested that cis-isomers of lycopene are better absorbed than the all-trans form because of the shorter length of the cis-isomer, the greater solubility of cis-isomers in mixed micelles, and/or as a result of the lower tendency of cis-isomers to aggregate. Work with ferrets, a species that absorbs carotenoids intact, has demonstrated that whereas a lycopene dose, stomach, and intestinal contents contained 6-18% cis-lycopene, the mesenteric lymph secretions contained 77%-cis isomers. The ferret studies support the hypotheses that cis-isomers are substantially more bioavailable then all-trans lycopene. In vitro studies suggest that cis-isomers are more soluble in bile acid micelles and may be preferentially incorporated into chylomicrons. The implications of these findings are not yet clear. Rats appear to accumulate lycopene in tissues within the ranges reported for humans, suggesting that they can be used to study effects of lycopene isomers on disease processes. Investigations are underway to determine whether there are biological differences between all-trans and various cis-isomers of lycopene regarding its antioxidant properties or other biological functions.

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