The salutary characteristics of the tomato are normally related to its content of carotenoids, especially lycopene, and other antioxidants. Our purpose was to verify whether the daily intake of a beverage prototype called Lyc-o-Mato® containing a natural tomato extract (Lyc-o-Mato® oleoresin 6 %) was able to modify plasma and lymphocyte carotenoid concentrations, particularly those of lycopene, phytoene, phytofluene and β-carotene, and to evaluate whether this intake was sufficient to improve protection against DNA damage in lymphocytes. In a double-blind, cross-over study, twenty-six healthy subjects consumed 250 ml of the drink daily, providing about 6 mg lycopene, 4 mg phytoene, 3 mg phytofluene, 1 mg β-carotene and 1·8 mg α-tocopherol, or a placebo drink. Treatments were separated by a wash-out period. Plasma and lymphocyte carotenoid and α-tocopherol concentrations were determined by HPLC, and DNA damage by the comet assay. After 26 d of consumption of the drink, plasma carotenoid levels increased significantly: concentrations of lycopene were 1·7-fold higher (P<0·0001); of phytofluene were 1·6-fold higher (P<0·0001); of phytoene were doubled (P<0·0005); of β-carotene were 1·3-fold higher (P<0·05). Lymphocyte carotenoid concentrations also increased significantly: that of lycopene doubled (P<0·001); that of phytofluene was 1·8-fold higher (P<0·005); that of phytoene was 2·6-fold higher (P<0·005); that of β-carotene was 1·5-fold higher (P<0·01) In contrast, the α-tocopherol concentration remained nearly constant. The intake of the tomato drink significantly reduced (by about 42 %) DNA damage (P<0·0001) in lymphocytes subjected to oxidative stress. In conclusion, the present study supports the fact that a low intake of carotenoids from tomato products improves cell antioxidant protection.