C ould a couple of glasses of tomato juice help you avoid osteoporosis? Thats the suggestion of a small new study at the University of Toronto that found lycopene-an an- tioxidant carotenoid that helps give tomatoes and some fruits their red color-reduces oxidative stress and bone resorption linked to osteoporosis.
Research has shown that oxidative stress caused by chemically reactive molecules containing oxygen can increase the natural rate of bone loss. These reactive-oxygen compounds can stimulate the body to reabsorb bone (resorption) as well as damage the cells that are responsible for bone formation. By quenching the reactive oxygen, antioxidants such as lycopene could protect bones against these osteo- porosis-promoting effects.
Leticia Rao, PhD, director of the universitys Calcium Research Laboratory, and colleagues had previously shown in laboratory studies that lycopene from tomatoes is associated with a protective effect on bones. But this fnding had yet to be demonstrated in trials on humans. So they tested the effects of lycopene on 60 post- menopausal women, ages 50-60, by frst putting them on a lycopene-free diet for a month. After this wash-out period, the women showed increased resorption of bone.
But that risk was reversed in the subsequent four-month trial period in which the women received either a lycopene supplement or two different types of tomato juice, compared to those on a placebo. One group took two 15-milligram lycopene supplements daily; another group drank two glasses of regular tomato juice (enough for a daily intake of 30 mil- ligrams of lycopene); a third group drank a special Japanese tomato juice high in lycopene (70 milligrams daily); and a control group took placebo capsules.
Those getting at least 30 milligrams daily of lyco- pene showed improvements in markers of oxidative stress as well as in a key marker of bone resorption called NTx. Rao and colleagues, reporting their fnd- ings in Osteoporosis International, noted that this is the frst intervention trial to show that lycopene may potentially improve bone health.
Therefore, they concluded, our novel study suggests that lycopene may be used as a natural complementary or alternative supplement for the reduction of the bone resorption marker NTx in postmenopausal women by decreasing oxidative stress parameters, which may therefore reduce the risk of osteoporosis. Long-term studies are needed, however, to determine whether lycopene slows bone loss and reduces fracture risk. Osteoporosis International, online ahead of print; abstract at <dx.doi. org/10.1007/s00198-010-1308-0>