Lycopene, atherosclerosis, and coronary heart disease.


Rissanen T, Voutilainen S, Nyyssonen K, Salonen JT




Exp Biol Med


Diets rich in fruits and vegetables containing carotenoids have been of interest because of their potential health benefit against chronic diseases such as cardiovascular diseases (CVD) and cancer. Interest particularly in lycopene is growing rapidly following the recent publication of epidemiological studies that have associated high lycopene levels with reductions in CVD incidence. Two studies were conducted. In the first one, we examined the role of lycopene as a risk-lowering factor with regard to acute coronary events and stroke in the prospective Kuopio Ischemic Heart Disease Risk Factor (KIHD) Study. The subjects were 725 middle-aged men free of coronary heart disease and stroke at the study baseline. In a Cox's proportional hazards' model adjusting for covariates, men in the lowest quartile of serum levels of lycopene had a 3.3-fold (P < 0.001) risk of the acute coronary event or stroke as compared with others. In the second study, we assessed the association between plasma concentration of lycopene and intima-media thickness of the common carotid artery wall (CCA-IMT) in a cross-sectional analysis of the Antioxidant Supplementation in the Atherosclerosis Prevention (ASAP) study data in 520 asymptomatic men and women. In a covariance analysis adjusting for common cardiovascular risk factors, low plasma levels of lycopene were associated with an 18% increase of IMT in men as compared with men in whom plasma levels were higher than median (P = 0.003 for difference). In women, the difference did not remain significant after the adjustments. On the basis of these works, it is evident that the circulating levels of lycopene play some role with regard to cardiovascular health in Finland, at least in men. We conclude that circulating levels of lycopene, a biomarker of tomato-rich food, may play a role in early stages of atherogenesis and may have clinical and public health relevance.