The carotenoid, most commonly associated with tomatoes, was found to decrease the response of inflammatory cytokines in the lungs of mice, as well as a two-fold decrease in the number of eosinophils – white blood cells associated with an allergic or asthmatic immune response, according to findings published in The Journal of Nutritional Biochemistry.
“This study provides evidence that dietary supplementation with lycopene prior to and during the onset of allergic airways disease may be of clinical benefit in reducing eosinophilic infiltrates both in the lungs and systemically,” wrote the researchers, led by Paul Foster from the University of Newcastle, UK.
The scientists used Lycored’s Lyc-O-Mato ingredient at a dose that would equate to about 50 mg per day for a human.
As an antioxidant, lycopene has been shown to have heart, blood pressure, prostate, osteoporosis, skin and other benefits in both natural and synthetic form and it has been commonly used in food supplements and cosmeceutical applications.
The Newcastle-based scientists used BALB/c mice to model the effects of lycopene on allergic inflammation and asthma. According to the European Federation of Allergy and Airway Diseases Patients Association (EFA), over 30m Europeans suffer from asthma, costing Europe €17.7bn every year. The cost due to lost productivity is estimated to be around €9.8bn.
The mice were divided into two groups: one received a normal diet and water, while the other received additional lycopene (Lyc-O-Mato). The animals subsequently inhaled ovalbumin in order to induce asthma-like symptoms in their lungs.
Results showed that the lycopene-rich supplementation reduced eosinophilic infiltrates in the lung fluid, tissue and blood. Furthermore, levels of inflammatory cytokines IL-4 and IL-5, which were found to increase in the control group, were also reduced following lycopene supplementation.
“We conclude that supplementation with lycopene reduces allergic inflammation both in the lungs and systemically, by decreasing cytokine responses,” wrote the researchers. “Thus, lycopene supplementation may have a protective effect against asthma,” they concluded.
Source: The Journal of Nutritional Biochemistry
Published online ahead of print, doi: 10.1016/j.jnutbio.2009.12.003
“Dietary lycopene supplementation suppresses Th2 responses and lung eosinophilia in a mouse model of allergic asthma”
Authors: L.C. Hazlewood, L.G. Wood, P.M. Hansbro, P.S. Foster