Lycopene May Contribute to Women's Heart Health
GA, 3 April 2002
found in tomatoes may offer clues for prevention of heart disease
may want to start adding more tomato products to their diets --
based on a study presented today by Harvard Medical School researchers
at the American College of Cardiology annual meeting. The study
-- compiled from data from the Women's Health Study -- suggests
that lycopene, an antioxidant in tomatoes, may reduce the risk of
heart disease in middle-aged and older women by as much as 33 percent.
Heart disease is the leading cause of death among American women.
to the American Heart Association, nearly twice as many women in
the United States die of heart disease and stroke as from all forms
of cancer, including breast cancer. In 1999, more than 500,000 women
died of coronary heart disease and 53 percent of the deaths from
cardiovascular disease were in women versus 47 percent in men.
study, conducted by Harvard Medical School researchers at Brigham
and Women's Hospital in Boston, analyzed blood samples of nearly
500 women from the Women's Health Study who developed cardiovascular
disease and an equal number of women from the study who did not
develop the disease. After the researchers took into account coronary
risk factors, such as history of high cholesterol and physical inactivity,
they found that those women with the highest levels of plasma lycopene
had a 33 percent lower risk of developing cardiovascular disease
than those with the lowest levels. Plasma lycopene refers to the
level of lycopene found in the blood. Researchers believe that the
level of lycopene in the blood is related to the amount of lycopene
consumed in the diet.
is the first large-scale study to examine the role that lycopene
may play in reducing the risk of cardiovascular disease exclusively
in women," said lead researcher Howard D. Sesso, ScD, instructor
of medicine at Harvard Medical School and director of epidemiology
at Brigham and Women's Hospital. "The body of research on lycopene
in other conditions such as prostate cancer is more advanced but
the 33 percent risk reduction in our study has compelled us to further
investigate lycopene's power in combating heart disease."
studies have identified a correlation between lycopene and a reduced
risk for cardiovascular disease. Several epidemiological studies
have found a potential benefit of lycopene in cardiovascular disease
risk reduction in men or in both men and women. The multi-center
European Study of Antioxidants, Myocardial Infarction and Cancer
of the Breast (EURAMIC) examined the association between antioxidant
concentration in fat tissue and the incidence of myocardial infraction
(MI) in 10 countries. The study found that men with the highest
concentrations of lycopene in their fat tissue had a 48 percent
reduction in risk for developing cardiovascular disease when compared
with men with the lowest lycopene levels in their fat tissue. The
Kuopio Ischaemic Heart Disease Risk Factor study found that low
serum lycopene concentrations were associated with a three-fold
increased risk of acute coronary events such as heart attack and
for a heart-healthy diet
and health professionals have long recommended increasing fruit
and vegetable intake as part of a heart healthy diet in part because
of their high antioxidant content.
are no dietary recommendations for lycopene. Yet the research suggests
that women should aim to consume more lycopene-rich foods as a prudent
measure in the prevention of chronic diseases," commented Michael
Gaziano, MD, director of cardiovascular epidemiology at Brigham
and Women's Hospital and one of the study's authors. Dietary sources
of lycopene include tomato-based products such as tomato soup, pizza
sauce and fruits such as watermelon and pink grapefruit.
of heart disease
to an American Heart Association survey titled "Women, Heart Disease
and Stroke Survey Highlights and Comparison", men are more likely
than women to recognize heart disease as a leading cause of death.
Women, on the other hand, mistakenly believe that cancer is their
biggest health threat. Yet statistics show us that nearly twice
as many women in the United States die of heart disease and stroke
as from all forms of cancer, including breast cancer.
findings from our study will add to the body of scientific literature
on lycopene and a reduced risk of cardiovascular disease, " said
Dr. Sesso. "Later this year, we'll continue to add to that body
of research by examining blood levels of lycopene in men. In addition,
we'll look at dietary intakes of lycopene and its impact on the
risk of cardiovascular disease."
Nutrition Information Service.