High Intake of Foods Rich in Lycopene May Reduce Risk of CVD in Women

NEW YORK, Publication of a study this month in the Journal of Nutrition found that women with the highest intake of tomato-based foods, rich sources of the antioxidant lycopene, had a reduced risk for CVD compared to women with low intake of those foods.(1) The study also showed a positive trend that the highest dietary levels of lycopene may also be protective against CVD. The present study is the first published report on the association of lycopene levels and cardiovascular disease exclusively in women.

The data, as reported by study leader Howard Sesso, ScD, MPH, of the Harvard School of Public Health, were derived from the ongoing Women's Health Study, which has been following 40,000 women for the past 11 years, who were free from cancer or CVD at the start of the study. After seven years of follow-up, the researchers recorded 719 cases of CVD. The present study analyzed the subjects' food frequency questionnaires for associations between intake of lycopene and tomato-based foods and the risk for CVD.


For those women who consumed seven servings or more of tomato-based foods like tomato sauce and pizza each week, there was a nearly 30 percent risk reduction in total cardiovascular disease compared to the group with intakes of less than 1 1/2 servings per week. Women who ate more than 10 servings per week had an even more pronounced reduction in risk (65 percent) for specific CVD outcomes such as heart attack or stroke.

While not statistically significant, the strongest association of dietary lycopene with CVD protection was seen among those participants with a median dietary lycopene intake of 20.2 mg per day, who had a 33 percent reduction in risk of the disease when compared with women with the lowest dietary lycopene intake (3.3 mg/day).


These findings add to a growing body of research pertaining to lycopene and CVD. For example, the European Study of Antioxidants, Myocardial Infarction and Cancer of the Breast (EURAMIC) studied adipose tissue for lycopene concentration and risk for CVD. That study found that men with the highest levels of lycopene in their adipose tissue were 48 percent less likely to develop CVD.(2) The Kuopio Ischaemic Heart Disease Risk Factor study also found that low serum lycopene levels were associated with increased risk of heart attack and stroke.(3) Prior to the latest study, 12 epidemiological studies have been published which investigated the association of lycopene plasma/serum concentrations (11 studies) or adipose tissue levels (1 study) with disease endpoints or certain biomarkers. Of these, 10 studies show a statistically significant inverse correlation with lycopene and the CVD endpoint.

Previous research has identified that lycopene has strong antioxidant properties relative to other carotenoids, colorful nutritional compounds in food.(4) In addition to CVD risk reduction, lycopene has been shown to improve other risk factors for CVD. For example, high levels of serum lycopene may reduce predictive markers of heart disease known as C-reactive protein in the blood.(5) In addition, lycopene may play help reduce blood levels of "bad" LDL cholesterol.(6)

    Lycopene Intake: (7)
     * A recent analysis of the USDA's Continuing Survey of Food Intakes of
       Individuals (CSFII) showed an average lycopene intake of 10.9 mg per
     * Half the population is getting 3.6 mg or less per day.

    Cardiovascular Disease Statistics: (8)
     * Cardiovascular disease includes high blood pressure, coronary heart
       disease, myocardial infarction, angina, congestive heart failure and
     * One in five males and females has some form of CVD
     * 32 million women have some form of CVD as compared to 30 million men

     For more information or to set up an interview with Dr. Sesso, contact:
     Wendy Weiss
     [email protected] To view the abstract of this study: www.nutrition.org  References: 1- Sesso H, et al. Dietary lycopene, tomato-based food products, and cardiovascular disease in women. J Nutr 2003; 133(7):2336-41. 2- Kohlmeier L, et al. Lycopene and myocardial infarction risk in the EURAMIC study. Am J Epidemiol 1997; 146:618-26. 3- Rissanen TH, et al. Serum lycopene concentrations and carotid atherosclerosis: the Kuopio Ischaemic Heart Disease Risk Factor Study. Am J Clin Nutr 2003; 77:133-8. 4- DiMascio P, et al. Lycopene as the most efficient biological carotenoid singlet oxygen quencher. Arch Biochem Biophys 1989; 274:532-8. 5- Kritchevsky SB, et al. Serum carotenoids and markers of inflammation in nonsmokers. Am J Epidemiol 2000; 15:1065-71. 6- Agarwal S, et al. Tomato lycopene and low density lipoprotein oxidation: a human dietary intervention study. Lipids 1998; 33:981-4. 7- U.S. Department of Agriculture, Agricultural Research Service. CSFII 1994-96. Food Surveys Research Group Home Page. www.sun.arsrin.gov/ars/Beltsville/barc/bhnrc/foodsurvey/home. 8- American Heart Association. Heart Disease and Stroke Statistics Update - 2003. Dallas, Tex.: American Heart Association; 2002. (C)2002, American Heart Association. 

This information is provided by the Vitamin Nutrition Information Service (VNIS). The VNIS was founded by Roche Vitamins in 1979 as a source of accurate and credible vitamin information for health professionals, educators and communicators. The VNIS monitors and disseminates vitamin research, sponsors professional symposia on current vitamin topics and generates materials to educate professionals about the roles of vitamins in health.

Hide comments


  • Allowed HTML tags: <em> <strong> <blockquote> <br> <p>

Plain text

  • No HTML tags allowed.
  • Web page addresses and e-mail addresses turn into links automatically.
  • Lines and paragraphs break automatically.