Lycopene Beneficial for Heart Health

Hyperlipidemia is an elevation of one or more of the following: cholesterol, cholesterol esters, phospholipids, or triglycerides. Although cholesterol has received much negative press, in normal quantities, it is essential for life. Cholesterol and triglycerides, as the major plasma lipids, are essential substrates for cell membrane formation, steroidal hormone synthesis, and production of bile acids. Accumulating evidence has linked elevated total and low-density lipoprotein cholesterol (LDL-C) and reduced high-density lipoprotein cholesterol (HDL-C) to the development of coronary heart disease. Research has shown that abnormalities in the way cholesterol is transported in the blood are the culprits in setting the stage for arteries to become damaged and clogged with plaque. (This is the condition known as “atherosclerosis.”)

Lycopene is a member of the family of phytochemicals called carotenoids. It is the substance that gives tomatoes and several other fruits their deep red color. Under normal conditions, the concentration of lycopene in human plasma is greater than beta-carotene and other dietary carotenoids. Some studies report that lycopene may enhance various aspects of cellular and non-cellular immunity.

Researchers have found that lycopene may benefit cardiovascular health by increasing the body’s natural antioxidant defenses and protecting against DNA damage. The study published in the journal Atherosclerosis included 126 healthy men who were randomized to receive placebo, 6 mg or 15 mg of lycopene per day for eight weeks. The results revealed that those receiving 15 mg of lycopene saw an increase in activity of super oxide dismutase, a powerful antioxidant enzyme, as well as reductions in measures of DNA damage in white blood cells. Super oxide dismutase activity increased by 2.37 units per milliliter in the high-dose group compared with an increase of 1.73 units per milliliter in 6 mg group and a decrease in activity in the placebo group. It was also found that the benefits extended to a reduction in systolic blood pressure and a decrease in levels of high-sensitivity C-reactive protein, which is an independent predictor of cardiovascular events. These findings suggest that increases in serum lycopene after supplementation may improve cardiovascular health and protect against DNA damage.1

1 Kim JY, Paik JK, Kim OY, et al. Effects of lycopene supplementation on oxidative stress and markers of endothelial function in healthy men. Atherosclerosis. Dec2010.

 

Source: Atherosclerosis
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