Posted on Jul 23, 2014, 6 a.m.
Lycopene may improve the function of blood vessels in patients with cardiovascular disease.
Cardiovascular disease is a leading cause of death among most industrialized nations, but its incidence is notably reduced in southern Europe, where a Mediterranean diet consisting of a larger consumption of fruit, vegetables and olive oil is common. One component of the Mediterranean diet that may exert beneficial health effects is lycopene, a powerful antioxidant compound found in tomatoes, that is ten times more potent than vitamin E. Joseph Cheriyan, from the University of Cambridge (United Kingdom), and colleagues explored the mechanism by which lycopene intervenes in cardiovascular risk. The researchers completed a randomized, double blind, placebo controlled, interventional trial involving 36 cardiovascular disease patients and 36 healthy volunteers. The patients with cardiovascular disease were all on statins (cholesterol-lowering drugs). However, despite this, they still had a relatively impaired function of the endothelium – the inner lining of blood vessels – compared to healthy volunteers. Subjects received either an off-the-shelf supplement containing 7mg of lycopene, or a placebo. The team measured the function of blood vessels via forearm blood flow, which is predictive of future cardiovascular risk. The researchers found that lycopene supplementation improved and normalized endothelial function in the cardiovascular patients, but not in healthy volunteers. Lycopene improved the widening of the blood vessels by 53%, as compared to baseline. The study authors conclude that: “Lycopene supplementation improves endothelial function in [cardiovascular disease] patients on optimal secondary prevention.”
Parag R. Gajendragadkar, Annette Hubsch, Kaisa M. Maki-Petaja, Martin Serg, Ian B. Wilkinson, Joseph Cheriyan. “Effects of Oral Lycopene Supplementation on Vascular Function in Patients with Cardiovascular Disease and Healthy Volunteers: A Randomised Controlled Trial.” PLOS One, 9 Jun 2014.