Lycopene is an antioxidant that is present in red- and pink-colored fruits and vegetables. As well as being used as a food coloring, it is also used in supplements and functional foods and beverages.
New data published in Nutrition Research suggests that higher serum levels of lycopene were associated with greater survival times for people with metabolic syndrome, compared to low serum levels.
Metabolic syndrome is a condition characterized by central obesity, hypertension, and disturbed glucose and insulin metabolism. The syndrome has been linked to increased risks of both type 2 diabetes and cardiovascular diseases.
“To our knowledge, this is the first study to examine the association between serum lycopene and the risk of mortality in individuals with metabolic syndrome,” wrote the researchers. “As expected, our result showed that there is a significant association between serum lycopene and mortality among individuals with metabolic syndrome.”
The Nebraska-based scientists analyzed data from 2,499 people with metabolic syndrome participating in the National Health and Nutrition Examination Survey (NHANES). The study shows correlation and not causation.
Lycopene serum levels were divided into three groups: Low (mean = 0.204 micromoles per liter (umol/L); range 0.011 to 0.291 umol/L); Medium (mean = 0.374 umol/L; range 0.292 to 0.456 umol/L); and High (mean = 0.626 umol/L; range 0.457 to 1.494 umol/L).
Results showed that the mean survival time of people with the highest serum lycopene concentration was about 4 months more than the medium group, and about 13 months more than people with the lowest serum levels.
“Although the biological mechanisms by which metabolic syndrome increases the risk of mortality are not entirely clear, increased oxidative stress and inflammation may play an important role in the higher rate of mortality of individuals with metabolic syndrome,” wrote the researchers. “As a natural antioxidant, lycopene was found to alleviate oxidative stress and decrease inflammation.
“Also, animal experiments demonstrate that lycopene can significantly decrease the pro-inflammatory cytokines and chemokines expression by inhibiting tumor necrosis factor alpha (TNFalpha)-mediated activation of the NF-kappa B signaling pathway in vitro and in vivo. Therefore, lycopene has the potential to reduce the risk of mortality by alleviating oxidative stress and decreasing inflammation.”
Source: Nutrition Research
Published online ahead of print, doi: 10.1016/j.nutres.2016.01.003
“Higher levels of serum lycopene are associated with reduced mortality in individuals with metabolic syndrome”
Authors: G-M. Han, et al.