Lycopene: Antioxidant linked to lower heart disease in women

According to a study in this month’s American Journal of Clinical Nutrition, women with the highest plasma levels of the antioxidant lycopene had a 34% reduced risk of cardiovascular disease (CVD), compared to women with lower plasma levels of the nutrient. The study also showed that the women with highest levels of plasma lycopene were likely to have high values of other beneficial carotenoids such as lutein/zeaxanthin and alpha- and beta-carotene.

Lycopene, an antioxidant carotenoid found in tomatoes, has previously been linked to lower rates of prostate cancer in men. Lycopene is also available as a nutritional supplement.

According to the data, consumption of more dietary lycopene is significantly related to higher plasma lycopene levels. Women with the highest plasma lycopene values were consuming nearly 10 mg of lycopene per day.

This report follows another, published in July, 2003, showing that women with the highest intake of lycopene-rich tomato-based foods had a reduced risk for CVD compared to women with low intake of those foods. Additionally, a larger group of studies have found similar promising results in terms of heart disease, though they did not focus on women alone. The European Study of Antioxidants, Myocardial Infarction and Cancer of the Breast (EURAMIC) studied tissue for lycopene concentration and risk for CVD in men. EURAMIC found that men with the highest levels of lycopene in their adipose tissue were 48% less likely to develop CVD.

Thirty-two million women have some form of CVD as compared to 30 million men.

Vitamin Nutrition Information Service, Jan 27, 2004