Lycopene reduces risk of cardiovascular disease.

lycopeneLycopene is a substance that is found in tomatoes and other and vegetables. A new study, from the University of Cambridge, has determined that the extract improves the function of blood vessels in patients with .

occurs on a global scale but the rates are considerably lower in Southern Europe where a ‘’ consists of a larger consumption of fruit, vegetables and olive oil predominates. Several studies have linked consumption of a to a lower risk of heart attack and stroke.

The study published in the journal links lycopene a powerful antioxidant to reduction of . Lycopene is ten times more powerful than vitamin E and its potency is enhanced when it is consumed in purees, ketchup and with olive oil.

Dr Joseph Cheriyan, consultant clinical pharmacologist & physician at Addenbrooke’s Hospital and Associate Lecturer at the University of Cambridge, said: “There’s a wealth of that suggests that the — which includes lycopene found in tomatoes and other fruit as a component — is good for our cardiovascular health. But so far, it’s been a mystery what the underlying mechanisms could be.”

The study consisted of a medical trial where 36 patients were provided with a Ateneron, (a supplement containing 7 mg of lycopene), or a placebo pill. None of the or researchers dispensing pills were aware which treatment was provided. The patients were receiving statins designed to lower cholesterol but still showed impaired function of the inner lining of their blood vessels compared to healthy volunteers. The optimal functioning of the inner lining of blood vessels called endothelial functioning protects against future .

The researchers determined that supplementation with lycopene improved and normalized the function of blood vessels in 53 % of patients impacting on the endothelial cells. There was no impact on healthy volunteers.

“We’ve shown quite clearly that lycopene improves the function of blood vessels in patients,” said Dr Cheriyan. “It reinforces the need for a healthy diet in people at risk from and stroke. A daily ‘tomato pill’ is not a substitute for other treatments, but may provide added benefits when taken alongside other medication. However, we cannot answer if this may reduce — this would need much larger trials to investigate outcomes more carefully.”

Professor Jeremy Pearson, Associate Medical Director at the British Heart Foundation, said: “Impaired endothelial function is a known predictor of increased risk of future . Further work is needed to understand whether the seen in this small study translate into clinical benefit for at-risk patients.”


Parag R. Gajendragadkar, Annette Hubsch, Kaisa M. Mäki-Petäjä, Martin Serg, Ian B. Wilkinson, Joseph Cheriyan. Effects of Oral Lycopene Supplementation on Vascular Function in Patients with and Healthy Volunteers: A Randomised Controlled Trial. , 2014; 9 (6): e99070 DOI: 10.1371/journal.pone.0099070

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