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Post-Menopausal Bone Health May Lie in Lycopene

Post-menopausal women may be able to decrease the risk of osteoporosis by drinking more lycopene rich tomato juice, says a new study by researchers at the University of Toronto.

The study was published in the November 2010 issue of the journal Osteoporosis International.

The risk of developing osteoporosis increases significantly as you age and women are 4x more likely to develop osteoporosis than men. According to the World Health Organization (WHO), approximately 70% of women over the age of 80 have osteoporosis.

An abundance of research has already linked vitamin D and calcium to osteoporosis prevention. This new study examined the link between tomato juice consumption and osteoporosis risk.

For the study, the researchers restricted 60 post-menopausal women between 50-60 years of age from consuming lycopene for 1 month. Lycopene is the powerful antioxidant found in various fruits and vegetables and it is especially abundant in tomatoes and wine.

After a 1 month “wash out” period the participants were split into four groups. Over the next four months, each group consumed either a 15mg lycopene supplement, a glass of tomato juice that naturally contains 15mg of lycopene, a gourmet Japanese tomato juice with 35mg of lycopene or a placebo.

By the end of the lycopene free month, there was an increased reobsorption of bone in every participant. Bone reobsorption is the process by which bones are broken down and dissolved into minerals such as calcium, phosphates and salts, and is what weakens the bones and leads to osteoporosis.

After the 4 month supplementation period, the researchers observed a significant decrease in bone reobsorption among the participants who consumed lycopene. They also observed increased antioxidant capacity and decreased oxidative stress parameters.

Beyond bone health, lycopene has also been shown to improve heart health, decrease inflammation and reduce cholesterol.

You can increase your lyopene levels by taking a supplement or by eating more red pigmented foods such as tomatoes, papayas and wine. Certain diets, such as the Mediterranean diet, are also high in lycopene.

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