Lycopene supplementation aids blood vessel function in heart disease patients

Lycopene shown to improve endothelial function in cardiovascular patients


The journal PLOS One reported a benefit for lycopene, an antioxidant that occurs in tomatoes, watermelon and other red fruits, in improving endothelial function in cardiovascular disease patients.

"There's a wealth of research that suggests that the Mediterranean diet — which includes lycopene found in tomatoes and other fruit as a component — is good for our cardiovascular health," stated lead researcher Joseph Cheriyan, who is a consultant clinical pharmacologist and physician at Addenbrooke's Hospital and Associate Lecturer at the University of Cambridge.

"But so far, it's been a mystery what the underlying mechanisms could be."

Endothelial dysfunction occurs when the inner lining of the blood vessels fails to dilate or constrict properly, and is believed to be involved in the development of atherosclerosis.

In a double-blind trial, Dr Cheriyan and colleagues randomized 36 cardiovascular disease patients treated with statin drugs and an equal number of healthy control subjects to receive 7 milligrams oral lycopene per day or a placebo for two months.

Forearm blood flow assessments of endothelium dependent and independent vasodilation, and basal nitric oxide synthase activity were conducted before and after treatment.

Endothelial-dependent vasodilation improved by 53% among those in the cardiovascular disease group who received lycopene. Although it averaged 30% lower in cardiovascular disease patients in comparison with healthy volunteers at the beginning of the study, by the end of the treatment period the endothelial-dependent vasodilation of participants with cardiovascular disease who received lycopene was comparable to that of the healthy subjects at the study's onset.

"We've shown quite clearly that lycopene improves the function of blood vessels in cardiovascular disease patients," Dr Cheriyan announced. "It reinforces the need for a healthy diet in people at risk from heart disease and stroke...."

"Impaired endothelial function is a known predictor of increased risk of future heart disease," commented Professor Jeremy Pearson, who is the Associate Medical Director of the British Heart Foundation. "Further work is needed to understand whether the beneficial effects seen in this small study translate into clinical benefit for at-risk patients."

Source: Life Extension Update Newsletter

My comment: This is an interesting study and confirms what we already know about the much publicised 'Mediterranean Diet' - however, It's best to get lycopene from your food wherever possible - there is more lycopene in cooked tomato products than in raw tomatoes, so increase your use of passata, sun dried tomatoes and tomato puree in your cooking (but avoid commercially prepared ketchup which is often high in sugar and salt).  Because lycopene is fat soluble, a drizzle of extra virgin olive oil before eating will aid absorption.

Summer soups such as gazpacho which are tomato based are delicious and quick to prepare - follow with some watermelon and you have a heart-healthy winning combination!

Other fruit and veg which contain lycopene: red cabbage, red peppers, parsley, ruby grapefruit, guava, and papaya.

Posted: Jun 27, 2014