Scientists explore whether lycopene in red fruits and vegetables lowers hypertension.

Substantial research has been devoted to a possible correlation between lycopene consumption and general health. A new study suggests that lycopene supplement could decrease blood pressure.

Lycopene is a bright red carotene and carotenoid pigment and phytochemical generally found in tomatoes and other red fruits and vegetables, such as red carrots, red bell peppers, watermelons, gac fruit, and papayas. It is not found in all red fruits and not only in red fruits. A good source is the Blakeslea trispora fungus, asparagus, dried parsley and basil. Processed tomato products such as pasteurized tomato juice, soup, sauce, and ketchup contain the highest concentrations of bioavailable lycopene from tomato-based sources.

Although lycopene is chemically a carotene, it has no vitamin A activity. It does have antioxidant properties. Researchers have linked lycopene to disease prevention, particularly prostate cancer, but evidence has been deemed insufficient for health claim approval by the US Food and Drug Administration. Nevertheless, the new study explored whether it may decrease blood pressure, but the results were conflicting.

Scientists analyzed existing research and then ranked it according to baseline blood pressure, lycopene dosage, duration, study location and the funding support of the paper. Six studies met their inclusion criteria, and the pooled analysis demonstrated that lycopene supplement of more than 12 mg/day might successfully lower systolic blood pressure (SBP), particularly among Asians or populations with baseline SBP over 120 mmHg. Lycopene intervention had no statistical effect on diastolic blood pressure and heterogeneity was observed in both instances.

They concluded that their meta-analysis “provides evidence of the role of lycopene in lowering SBP; thus, to provide lycopene or tomato extract as effective additions for antihypertensive treatment, longer term studies with a larger number of patients are required in the future.”

Unlike other fruits and vegetables, where nutritional content such as vitamin C is diminished upon cooking, processing tomatoes (such as in the canning process) and serving it in oil-rich dishes (such as spaghetti sauce or pizza) increases the concentration of bioavailable lycopene. Lycopene in tomato paste for example is four times more bioavailable than in fresh tomatoes.


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