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Lycopene Linked to Healthier Blood Vessels

A study published in the August 2009 issue of the journal Atherosclerosis found that higher blood levels of lycopene are linked to decreased stiffness of the arteries and reduced inflammation.

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

Lycopene has been shown to have heart, blood pressure, prostate and osteoporosis benefits.

The researchers, from the Department of Food and Nutrition at Yonsei University in South Korea, recruited 264 women aged between 31 and 75 for the study.

They took blood samples to measure levels of lycopene, certain markers for inflammation and levels of oxidized LDL (bad) cholesterol, which are associated with hardening of the arteries.

They found that women with the highest blood levels of lycopene had lower levels of a marker for inflammation called c-reactive protein and lower oxidized LDL levels.

This combination of benefits is associated with a decreased risk of developing atherosclerosis, or hardening of the arteries..

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.

This healthy diet, typical of people who live in the European countries bordering the Mediterranean Sea, has been shown to reduce the risk of heart disease and metabolic syndrome, lower blood pressure and protect against neuro-degenerative diseases like Alzheimer's.

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