Higher serum lycopene levels linked to lower mortality risk over a decade

Thursday, February 4, 2016

The journal Nutrition Research published an article online on January 9, 2016 that revealed a significantly lower risk of dying over follow-up among metabolic syndrome patients who had high levels of lycopene. Lycopene is a carotenoid that gives such food as tomatoes and watermelon their red color. The compound has been associated with a number of health benefits in recent research.

A team from the University of Nebraska Medical Center in Omaha evaluated data from 2,499 participants who enrolled in the National Health and Nutrition Examination Survey (NHANES) from 2001-2006. Subjects were limited to those 20 years of age and older with metabolic syndrome. Blood samples collected upon enrollment were analyzed for serum lycopene concentrations.

Among subjects whose lycopene levels were among the top one-third of participants, the risk of dying over follow-up was 39% lower than those in the lowest group, and for those whose levels were among the middle third, the risk was 33% lower.

"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," authors Guang-Ming Han and colleagues announce. "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."

"Lycopene has the potential to reduce the risk of mortality by alleviating oxidative stress and decreasing inflammation," they write. "As expected, our study clearly demonstrated that higher serum lycopene level is significantly associated with higher survival time among participants with metabolic syndrome."

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Increased lycopene intake associated with lower kidney cancer risk
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The February 2015 issue of the journal Cancer reported a finding among participants in the Women's Health Initiative (WHI) of a lower risk of renal cell carcinoma in association with greater intake of lycopene, an antioxidant compound found in red fruit such as watermelon and tomatoes.

Cathryn Bock, PhD, MPH, and associates analyzed data from 96,196 postmenopausal women who enrolled in the WHI from 1993 to 1998 and were followed through July 2013. Dietary questionnaires completed upon enrollment were analyzed for the intake of lycopene and other antioxidants, and supplement use was ascertained in subject interviews.

Two hundred-forty women were diagnosed with renal cell carcinoma over follow-up. Among women whose intake of lycopene was among the top 25% of subjects, there was a 39% lesser risk of the disease in comparison with those whose intake was among the lowest 25%.

"Lycopene from food sources has also been associated with decreased risk of breast and prostate cancers, and a diet high in vegetables and fruits are generally well-accepted for promoting good health," noted Dr Bock, who is an associate professor of Oncology at Wayne State University's School of Medicine.

"Kidney cancer is a relatively rare cancer, and so focusing only on reducing risk of this disease would be short-sighted," she remarked. "Rather, a diet focused on one's own personal risk factors, such as family history, would be more beneficial."

Dr Bock's team is currently evaluating the relationship between antioxidant intake and kidney cancer risk in a case-control study involving participants from the Detroit area. "This study included a broader population, including both men and women, and with greater representation of African-Americans, and therefore may help describe the associations in populations beyond postmenopausal women who are primarily of European descent," she stated.

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Insensitivity of tissues to circulating insulin (i.e., insulin resistance) is a hallmark of type 2 diabetes and metabolic syndrome and has obesity as a major risk factor. While moderate post-meal increases in insulin are normal and signal tissues to take up glucose and store it as glycogen and fat, overconsumption can lead to accelerated increases in fat mass and excessive insulin production (i.e., hyperinsulinemia). Sustained hyperinsulinemia activates inflammatory pathways, which can lead to insulin resistance; although the mechanisms of this phenomenon are not clearly understood (Sung 2011; Bastard 2006). The appetite suppressing activity of insulin may be abolished in insulin-resistant obese individuals (Hagobian 2010), which may promote further weight gain by removing this important appetite control mechanism.

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