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Lycopene may benefit heart health owing to antioxidant effects

February 2, 2011

Lycopene could reduce cardiovascular disease risk factors by supporting the body’s natural antioxidant defenses, a new South Korean study indicates.

In the randomized controlled trial, 126 healthy men with an average age of 34 were randomly assigned to receive a daily 6 or 15-milligram supplement of lycopene or placebo for eight weeks (1). In order to assess antioxidant effects, the activity of the super oxide dismutase (SOD), a powerful antioxidant enzyme, and DNA damage in white blood cells, were measured. In addition, cardiovascular disease risk factors, such as systolic blood pressure and the level of high-sensitivity C-reactive protein (hsCRP), a marker of inflammation and an independent predictor of cardiovascular-related events, were determined. The study results showed that the daily intake of lycopene was associated with increased activity of SOD. In addition, a reduction in systolic blood pressure and a decrease in levels of hsCPR were measured. Furthermore, a reduction of DNA damage and a significantly improved endothelial function were shown for the high-dose lycopene group but not for the other groups.

The researchers commented that these results add to a growing body of evidence on the potential protective effects of the antioxidant lycopene in atherosclerosis through an anti-inflammatory effect that preserves endothelial function. Since the lycopene capsule used in this study also contained beta-carotene (more than 0.5 mg), a synergistic effect of the carotenoids may have increased the beneficial effects on the atherosclerosis risk factors.

Lycopene is an antioxidant that is present in red and pink-colored fruits and vegetables. Studies have suggested that lycopene in both natural and synthetic forms may benefit the heart, blood pressure, prostate, bones and skin.

References

  1. Kim J. Y. et al. Effects of lycopene supplementation on oxidative stress and markers of endothelial function in healthy men. Atherosclerosis. 2011.