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Tomato Juice Lowers Risk for Heart Disease?

Oxidative stress induced by reactive oxygen species (ROS) which are generated due to hyperglycemia, is one of the major foci of recent research related to diabetes. There is strong evidence that damage caused by ROS may play a significant role in causing diabetes complications like neuropathy, nephropathy, and retinopathy.

Antioxidants are protective agents that inactivate ROS and thereby significantly delay or prevent oxidative damage. Current dietary guidelines to combat chronic diseases including cancer, coronary heart disease (CHD), and diabetes recommended increased intake of plant products including fruits and vegetables which are rich in carotenoids as good sources of antioxidants.

Antioxidants with scavenging ability serve as a defense system against the oxidative stress, and therefore may play a protective role in the development of type 2 diabetes. In population studies done, higher consumption of fruits and vegetables, which are the main sources of carotenoids, has been linked to lower the risk of type 2 diabetes, suggesting a potential role of carotenoids in preventing the development of type 2 diabetes.

The carotenoid compound called lycopene, which is found in high levels in tomatoes and tomato-based food products, is thought to play an important role in the defense against chronic diseases like cancer and coronary heart disease. Lycopene is a carotenoid antioxidant that has the ability to prevent free radical damage to cells caused by ROS. It is an acyclic isomer of beta-carotene and does not show any pro-vitamin A activity. It is the most predominant carotenoid in human plasma.

Recent studies have found free radicals to cause disruption in insulin action and aggravate glucose-intolerant states. In some clinical trials done, tomato juice supplementation in type 2 diabetic patients resulted in nearly three-fold increase in plasma levels of lycopene and significant protection from LDL oxidation, a risk factor in CVD. Recent studies suggests that glucose-intolerant states are a result of increased-oxidative stress, and that lycopene may play a role in reducing pathogenesis of diabetes through its antioxidant capacity.

Results of the study done by Upritchard, et al on the effect of supplementation with tomato juice, vitamin E, and vitamin C on LDL oxidation and products of inflammatory activity in type 2 diabetes indicate that consumption of commercial tomato juice increases plasma lycopene levels and the intrinsic resistance of LDL to oxidation almost as effectively as supplementation with a high dose of vitamin E, which also decreases plasma levels of CRP (C-reactive protein), a risk factor for heart attacks in patients with diabetes.

In another study made by Neyestani, et al the physiological dose of lycopene suppressed oxidative stress and enhanced serum levels of immunoglobulin M in patients with type 2 diabetes mellitus—a possible role in the prevention of long-term complications. Results showed that lycopene, probably by increasing TAC (total antioxidant capacity) and inhibiting malondialdehyde (MDA)-LDL formation, may attenuate T cell-dependent adaptive (pro¬atherogenic) immune response. Meanwhile, with enhancement of innate immunity and hence, prevention of oxidized LDL uptake by macrophage and foam cell formation, lycopene may be effective in prevention of long-term diabetic complications, notably cardiovascular disease.

Metabolic abnormalities in type 2 diabetes are associated with increased platelet sensitivity to proaggregants and decreased platelet sensitivity to endogenous antiaggregants. Thus, patients with type 2 diabetes have an increased risk of developing atherosclerosis and cardiovascular complications. In a study made on tomato juice and platelet aggregation in type 2 diabetes, consumption of tomato products has been found to be inversely correlated with incidence of acute coronary events, development of early atherosclerosis, and mortality from heart disease. Furthermore, clarified tomato juice has been shown to inhibit human platelet aggregation in vitro and in an animal model. A study was also made on whether consumption of tomato juice clarified by filtration could inhibit platelet aggregation in patients with type 2 diabetes or impaired glucose tolerance, and found that consumption after three weeks inhibited platelet aggregation.

Despite the results of the above researches, direct evidence regarding the beneficial effect of intake of lycopene or lycopene-containing foods on insulin action and glucose intolerance is still lacking. More research is needed to further elucidate the biological mechanisms of lycopene absorption and metabolism, and to determine the specific role of lycopene in the development of type 2 diabetes mellitus.

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