More support for lycopene's prostate benefits

By Stephen Daniells

- Last updated on GMT

Related tags Lycopene Prostate cancer

Lycopene may show benefits against benign prostate hyperplasia
(BPH), a condition said to affect more than half of all men over
the age of 50, suggests a new study from Germany.

Forty people took part in the new pilot study, which adds clinical data to an area previously lacking, according to the researchers in this month's Journal of Nutrition.

Epidemiological evidence has suggested that tomato-based foods can protect men from prostate cancer.

One study found that men eating four to five tomato based-dishes per week were 25 per cent less likely to develop prostate cancer compared to men eating tomatoes only rarely.

Such findings are boosting the lycopene market, with growth rates forecast at over 100 per cent by Frost and Sullivan, albeit from a low base of around €27m ($34m) in 2003.

Researchers, led by Silke Schwarz from the University of Hohenheim, recruited the men with BPH but no signs of prostate cancer, and randomly assigned them to receive either daily lycopene supplements (15 mg, LycoVit, BASF) or placebo for six months.

Benign prostatic hyperplasia (BPH) is a non-cancerous swelling in the prostate gland of older men.

It affects approximately 25 per cent of American Caucasians over the age of 50, with the direct cost of BPH in 2000 calculated to be $1.1 billion (€ 0.9 billion).

According to the European Association of Urology, 30 per cent of men older that 65 are affected by BPH.

At the end of the six month intervention period, Schwarz and co-workers reported that levels of prostate-specific antigen (PSA), a marker of prostate health, were reduced in the lycopene group showing improvements in health of the tissue.

However, no changes were recorded in the placebo group.

Moreover, no enlargement of the prostate occurred in the lycopene group, whereas growth was observed in the placebo group, as assessed by digital rectal examination and trans-rectal ultrasonography.

"Symptoms of the disease, as assessed via the International Prostate Symptom Score questionnaire, were improved in both groups with a significantly greater effect in men taking lycopene supplements," wrote the researchers.

"In conclusion, lycopene inhibited progression of BPH."

The research was welcomed by Kai Sievert, in charge of business development and product management specialties of BASF's global business unit "Nutrition Ingredients".

"Until now, lycopene's positive effects were documented only for patients already suffering from prostatic cancer.

What's new is the knowledge that LycoVit inhibits prostate growth in general.

It allows LycoVit to be re-positioned on the food supplement market," said Sievert.

The role of lycopene for prostate health has been questioned recently.

A study published last May in published in the journal Cancer Epidemiology Biomarkers & Prevention , reported that the carotenoid may not offer protection for prostates, based on a multi-centre study case-control study including 692 prostate cancer cases, and 844 randomly selected, matched controls.

According to the European School of Oncology, over half a million news cases of prostate cancer are diagnosed every year world wide, and the cancer is the direct cause of over 200,000 deaths.

More worryingly, the incidence of the disease is increasing with a rise of 1.7 per cent over 15 years.

Source: Journal of Nutrition January 2008, Volume 138, Pages 49-53 "Lycopene Inhibits Disease Progression in Patients with Benign Prostate Hyperplasia" Authors: S. Schwarz, U.C. Obermuller-Jevic, E. Hellmis, W. Koch, G. Jacobi, H.-K. Biesalski

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