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Study Highlights Lycopene's Heart Health Benefits

Researchers from Yonsei University in South Korea recently conducted a study which uncovered the mechanism behind lycopene’s heart health benefits. Their findings were published in the December 2010 issue of the journal Atherosclerosis.

Lycopene is a powerful antioxidant which helps neutralize harmful free radicals. It is a red pigment that is found in wine and a number of fruits and vegetables including tomatoes, pink grapefruit and watermelon.

For the study, the researchers recruited 126 healthy men with an average age of 34. The participants were randomly assigned to receive a daily supplement of either 6 or 15 milligrams of lycopene or a placebo for eight weeks.

After the eight weeks, the researchers observed a significant increase in the activity of a powerful antioxidant enzyme called superoxide dismutase among participants receiving the lycopene supplement. Superoxide dismutase repairs cells and reduces the damage done to them by superoxide, the most common free radical in the body.

The participants given the highest dosage also saw the greatest reduction in DNA damage and an improvement in the function of the cells lining blood vessels.

These findings provide further evidence to back the benefits of lycopene, which has also been linked to 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 and papayas.

Certain diets, such as the Mediterranean diet, are also high in lycopene. The Mediterranean diet is rich in vegetables, legumes, fruits, whole grains, and healthy oils, such as those found in fish, olives, and nuts

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