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.