Lycopene Shown to Improve Vascular Health
Lycopene is an antioxidant compound that gives fruits and vegetables a red color.
A recent study suggests that taking a lycopene supplement may improve blood vessel health (endothelial function), which in turn improves general cardiovascular health.
Participants in the study included 36 cardiovascular disease patients who were treated with statins and 36 healthy volunteers. Two thirds of the total 72 participants were given 7 mg lycopene daily for two months while the other third was given a placebo.
At the conclusion of the study, the cardiovascular disease group showed improvements in endothelial function, but the healthy group did not. The researchers believe this was due to the fact that the lycopene improved blood vessel response to acetylcholine. Acetylcholine releases nitric oxide and dilates the blood vessels, reducing constriction of the blood vessels, which can lead to heart attack or stroke.
Researchers from the University of Cambridge and the Cambridge University Hospitals National Health Service Foundation Trust conducted the study. It was published on June 9, 2014, in PLOS One.
Previous studies have shown that lycopene may have a positive effect on heart health, bone health, and skin health.
If you want to increase lycopene levels you may want to consider taking a lycopene supplement, or increasing your consumption of red-pigmented foods such as tomatoes, peppers and papayas. Certain diets, such as the Mediterranean diet, are also high in lycopene.