Tomatoes take on osteoporosis
Leticia G. Rao, PhD
Lycopene, a potent antioxidant found predominately in tomato products, helps to prevent bone loss and osteoporosis, as well as other health benefits.
Osteoporosis is known as the silent disease. This metabolic bone disease occurs primarily in women over the age of 50 due to estrogen loss at menopause. It not only affects one in two women–it also affects one in four men.
Oxidative stress is caused when an imbalance of reactive oxygen species (ROS), such as free radicals, occurs in the body. This overabundance of ROS is one of the major causes of several chronic diseases including osteoporosis.
Lycopene, a potent antioxidant found predominantly in tomatoes and tomato products, helps to prevent bone loss and osteoporosis due to oxidative stress. It inhibits ROS production and the formation and activity of osteoclasts (the cells that are responsible for bone loss).
Lycopene stimulates alkaline phosphatase (ALP). The presence of this widely recognized biochemical marker indicates osteoblasts are at work building bone.
Bone turnover markers predict bone loss and osteoporosis in postmenopausal women. Ongoing clinical studies are evaluating the relationship between bone turnover markers and oxidative stress markers.
Researchers at St. Michael’s Hospital in Toronto tested whether lycopene in the diet correlates directly with serum lycopene (the measurement of lycopene in the blood). A direct correlation was found between lycopene intake and serum lycopene which indicates that lycopene in the diet is readily absorbed by postmenopausal women.
Additionally, the women who consumed food high in lycopene had lower oxidative stress parameters and lower bone turnover markers.
This dietary intervention study of 33 postmenopausal women aged 50 to 60, demonstrated that when lycopene is taken either in capsule form or drunk as regular tomato juice or lycopene-enriched tomato juice, bone resorption markers and oxidative stress parameters decreased.
Oxidative stress due to ROS which leads to the development of postmenopausal osteoporosis may be prevented by taking the antioxidant lycopene. Research results further confirm that lycopene may be an alternative to conventional medical treatments such as hormone therapy or prescription medications. Lycopene may provide an alternative natural treatment for the prevention and management of osteoporosis.