Tuesday, April 28, 2009

Lycopene Gets Plug for Combating Metabolic Syndrome

It's that time of year when lycopene's rosey blush should indeed get prime time attention. I just wrote about grapefruit juice and lycopene and drug efficacy.

As a refresher, lycopene helps the body (along with plants and algae) to synthesize other carotenoids, including beta carotene. Lycopene gets transported around the body by lipoproteins and accumulates in the liver, adrenal glands, and testes.

Many people don't know that lycopene is fat-soluble and is not water soluble. For supplements, this means that it takes solvents and oil to dissolve lycopene (and, as I've said before, lycopene is unstable in formulation, so best to get lycopene from dietary sources).

Back to carotenoids in the news for helping combat metabolic syndrome. Dutch scientists reported in the Journal of Nutrition that middle-aged and elderly men with the highest average intake of carotenoids overall had a 58% lower incidence of metabolic syndrome, while the highest intake of lycopene was associated with a 45% lower incidence of metabolic syndrome.

The findings were based on data from a population-based, cross-sectional study involving 374 men aged between 40 and 80, 22 per cent of whom had metabolic syndrome. Intakes of the carotenoids, including alpha- and beta-carotene, beta-cryptoxanthin, lycopene, lutein, and zeaxanthin, were assessed using a food frequency questionnaire (FFQ).

In the Dutch study, lycopene and beta carotene trumped other carotenoids in combatting metabolic syndrome, which translates into smaller waistlines and fat mass along with lower levels of triglycerides in the blood stream of folks ingesting these carotenoids.

Remember, spring and summer are ideal times to boost your own levels of disease-fighting carotenoids, especially lycopene, which is found in tomatoes, watermelon, papaya, pink guava, red bell pepper, and even some green leafy vegetables. However, as a fat-soluble nutrient, lycopene is more bioavailable after cooking tomatoes and when served in oil-rich tomato sauces than in raw veggies (a bonus for those of you who prefer cooked over raw foods).

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