The key difference between lycopene and beta carotene is that the lycopene is a carotenoid that has no pro-vitamin A activity while the beta carotene is a carotenoid that is the main precursor for vitamin A.
Carotenoids are a group of pigments that provide characteristic colours to fruits and vegetables, and therefore, visible in yellow, orange and red colours. They are plant pigments mainly constituted of two classes; carotenes and xanthophylls. Structurally, carotenoids are hydrophobic hydrocarbons. Hence, they are not soluble in water. But, they are soluble in lipids. Besides, carotenoids show different beneficial properties. Also, they assist plants for photosynthesis.
Furthermore, they have antioxidant, anticancer, and anti-inflammatory properties. Moreover, carotenoids are popular in cardiovascular disease prevention as well. Many fruits and vegetables such as carrots, yams, sweet potatoes, papaya, watermelon, cantaloupe, mangos, spinach, kale, tomatoes, bell peppers and oranges are good sources of carotenoids. Some of the most studied carotenoids are beta-carotene, lycopene, lutein, and zeaxanthin.
1. Overview and Key Difference
2. What is Lycopene
3. What is Beta Carotene
4. Similarities Between Lycopene and Beta Carotene
5. Side by Side Comparison – Lycopene vs Beta Carotene in Tabular Form
What is Lycopene?
Lycopene is one of the popular carotenoids. It is a red colour plant pigment that acts as a key intermediate in the biosynthesis of many carotenoids including beta-carotene and xanthophyll. But, unlike beta carotene, lycopene has no pro-vitamin A activity.
Structurally, lycopene is a long C chain that contains 13 double bonds. Moreover, it is a hydrocarbon. But, it does not contain the beta-ionone ring, which is present in beta carotene. However, lycopene and beta-carotene have a similar molecular formula (C40H56) and molecular mass (536 g/mol).
Looking at the sources of lycopene, lycopene is rich in tomato. Other than in tomato, lycopene levels are high in many fruits and vegetables such as autumn olive, gac, watermelon, pink grapefruit, pink guava, papaya, seabuckthorn, wolfberry, etc.
Since, lycopene is the key intermediate of beta-carotene formation, the level of lycopene goes up when the beta carotene synthesis stops. It is obvious in tomato. When tomato fruit matures, the synthesis of beta carotene decreases and the tomato becomes entirely red due to the accumulation of lycopene.
What is Beta Carotene?
Beta carotene is one of the carotenoids that has pro-vitamin A activity. In simple words, beta carotene is a carotenoid that can be easily converted into vitamin A. Hence; it is vital for healthy eyes and skin. Also, it is mainly an orange colour pigment. In fact, beta carotene is the plant pigment which gives carrot its typical orange colour.
Beta carotene is present in many types of fruits and vegetables. Considering the health benefits, beta carotene is a potent antioxidant. It is capable of destroying the harmful free radicals that damage our cells. Furthermore, beta carotene can lower the risk of coronary artery disease, stroke, macular degeneration, and other age-related diseases.
Similar to lycopene, the molecular weight of beta carotene is 536 g/mol and the molecular formula is C40H56. However, unlike lycopene, the C chain of beta carotene has only 11 double bonds.
What are the Similarities Between Lycopene and Beta Carotene?
- Lycopene and beta carotene are phytochemicals that are carotenoids.
- They are tetraterpene
- Moreover, they are hydrophobic hydrocarbons.
- Hence, both are insoluble in water, but soluble in lipids.
- Also, both their colour range is yellow, orange and red.
- Furthermore, they have an identical molecular weight and molecular formula.
- They contain long rigid C chains arranged from eight isoprene units with four units facing each other.
- Also, both absorb light in the blue wavelength.
- Besides, both are very good antioxidants.
- Hence, both can lower the risk of coronary artery disease.
What is the Difference Between Lycopene and Beta Carotene?
Lycopene and beta carotene are two carotenoids. Lycopene lacks pro-vitamin A activity, and hence, cannot convert it into vitamin A. On the other hand, beta carotene has pro-vitamin A activity, and therefore, can convert it into vitamin A. Thus, this is the key difference between lycopene and beta carotene.
Furthermore, one other difference between lycopene and beta carotene is that the lycopene is mainly a red colour pigment while beta carotene is mainly an orange colour pigment. Moreover, both lycopene and beta carotene are hydrocarbons and have identical molecular formula and molecular weight. However, the carbon chain of lycopene has 13 double bonds while the carbon chain of beta carotene has 11 double bonds. Hence, structurally, this is a difference between lycopene and beta carotene.
The below infographic on the difference between lycopene and beta carotene provides more details about these differences.
Summary – Lycopene vs Beta Carotene
Lycopene and beta carotene are two carotenoids. Both are potential natural antioxidants and anticancer compounds. However, due to the lack of beta ring in lycopene, it lacks the pro-vitamin A activity. On the other hand, beta carotene has pro-vitamin A activity, and it is the main precursor of vitamin A. Therefore, this is the key difference between lycopene and beta carotene.
Moreover, lycopene is abundant in tomatoes while beta carotene is abundant in carrots. Thus, this summarizes the difference between lycopene and beta carotene.
1. “Lycopene.” NeuroImage, Academic Press. Available here
2. Szalay, Jessie. “What Are Carotenoids?” LiveScience, Purch, 15 Oct. 2015. Available here
1.”68133″ by Pixabay (CC0) via Pexels
2.”534096″ (CC0) via pxhere
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