Lycopene, a red pigment primarily found in tomatoes, may have protective effects against osteoporosis, researchers report.
Osteoporosis is a disease that causes the bones to become weak and prone to fractures. Although many factors contribute to bone loss, the leading cause in women is decreased estrogen production during menopause. This is because estrogen increases bone density by blocking a process called bone resorption, which is the natural breakdown of bone and transfer of calcium to the blood.
Earlier lab and animal studies have suggested that lycopene may have beneficial effects on bone.
This recent study included 60 postmenopausal women who were 50 to 60 years old. For the first month, the women did not consume any lycopene in their diets. The participants were then randomly assigned to take 15 milligrams of a lycopene supplement, one glass of a tomato juice (containing 15 milligrams of lycopene), a Japanese tomato juice called Lyc-O-Mato® (containing 35 milligrams of lycopene) or a placebo daily for four months.
After the first month with no lycopene, bone resorption increased in the women, suggesting an increased risk of developing osteoporosis.
After four months of treatment, the lycopene groups had significantly increased antioxidant activity, decreased oxidative stress markers and decreased bone resorption markers compared to placebo.
However, additional research is needed to confirm these early findings. The study was funded by the Canadian Institutes of Health Research (CIHR); the Research and Development Departments of Genuine Health and several manufacturers of lycopene- and tomato-based products, including Heinz®; Millenium Biologix, Inc.; Kagome (Japan) and LycoRed.
For more information about lycopene, please visit Natural Standard's Foods, Herbs & Supplements database.