Daily intake of a lycopene-based food supplement could help to cut the risk of heart disease by improving the functioning of blood vessels, say researchers.
The data comes from preliminary trial findings on a patented molecule known as Ateronon. The molecule – a modified version of the lycopene compound that is found in tomato – was originally developed by Nestle and is now licensed to UK-based biotech firm CamNutra.
The preliminary findings of the study, which is led by researchers from the University of Cambridge in the UK, suggest that the modified lycopene product boosts the elasticity and efficiency of blood vessels (endothelial functioning) by up to 50%.
Joseph Cheriyan, lead author of the study said the initial findings are “very exciting indeed.” However the researcher noted that he is anxious not to comment further on the preliminary findings ahead of publication of the full study in a scientific journal.
“We think these results are good news and potentially very significant, but we need more trials to see if they translate into fewer heart attacks and strokes,” added Ian Wilkinson, director of Cambridge University’s clinical trials unit.
Peter Kirkpatrick medical advisor to CamNutra, who sponsored the Cambridge trial, agreed that it is too early to form ‘any firm conclusions’, but said the initial findings are “far better than anything we could have hoped for.”
The preliminary results from the trial, in which the pill was given to 36 heart disease patients and 36 healthy controls were given the supplement for two months, shows that the modified lycopene improved endothelium function and blood flow.
Further studies of the supplement – which is modified to improve the bioavailability and absorption of lycopene by combining it with lactose – are already underway at Harvard University in the USA while more research is planned for the UK later this year.
“If this modified lycopene really does have an effect on endothelial function, then it could have a beneficial effect on virtually every inflammatory disease process, including things like arthritis or diabetes,” said Professor David Fitzmaurice of Birmingham University, UK – who is involved in patient recruitment for these further trials.
“It is all highly speculative at this stage, but this [modified lycopene] might even slow down the development of cancer, which is also linked to inflammation,” he said.