PISA, ITALY. Italian researchers report an inverse correlation between blood level of lycopene and the severity of atherosclerosis. Their study involved 11 healthy subjects with no indication of hypertension or atherosclerosis, 11 patients with hypertension, and 11 patients with hypertension and peripheral vascular disease (intermittent claudication). All participants had their blood plasma level of lycopene, gamma- tocopherol, alpha-tocopherol, beta-carotene, and coenzyme Q10 (ubiquinone) measured. They also underwent ultrasonography in order to measure the thickness of the wall in the carotid artery. The maximum thickness of the wall, IMTmax, provides a reliable indication of the extent of atherosclerosis. As expected IMTmax was significantly higher (2.56 mm) in patients with peripheral vascular disease (PVD) than in controls (1.05 mm) and in patients with uncomplicated hypertension (1.24 mm).
The researchers also found a significant inverse association between IMTmax and lycopene levels. Patients
with PVD had an average lycopene level of 0.74 micromol/L as compared to controls at 1.19 micromol/L.
Combining all three groups of participants a clear inverse association between IMTmax and lycopene also
emerged. The researchers found no association between IMTmax and blood levels of alpha-tocopherol,
gamma-tocopherol, beta-carotene or coenzyme Q10. They speculate that lycopene may be protective
against atherosclerosis and urge further trials to determine the potential benefits of