HealthDay News — Lycopene, an antioxidant found in high concentrations in tomatoes and tomato products, may lower stroke risk in men, study results suggest.

Men who had high serum concentrations of the carotenoid had significantly lower risk for any stroke (HR=0.45; 95% CI: 0.25-0.95) and ischemic stroke  (HR=0.41; 95% CI: 0.17-0.97), compared with those who had low concentrations, Jouni Karppi, PhD, of the University of Eastern Finland in Kuopio, and colleagues reported in Neurology.

The findings remained significant even after the researchers adjusted for age, examination year, BMI, systolic BP, smoking, serum LDL cholesterol, diabetes and history of stroke.

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Results from previous studies examining the link between carotenoid-rich food consumption and stroke risk have been mixed, although some have shown associations between greater consumption, higher serum levels and lower stroke risk.

To better understand these relationships, Karppi and colleagues examined whether serum concentrations of major carotenoids correlated with the risk of any stroke and ischemic stroke, among 1,031 Finnish men aged 42 to 61 years, who were participating in the longitudinal Kuopio Ischemic Heart Disease Risk Factor study.

Serum concentrations of lycopene, alpha-carotene, beta-carotene, alpha-tocopherol and retinol were measured.

During a median follow-up of 12.1 years, 67 strokes occurred, including 50 ischemic strokes. After adjusting for confounding variables, the researchers found that greater serum concentrations of lycopene, but none of the other compounds, were associated with a lower stroke risk.

The exceptional antioxidant properties of lycopene may help explain why this carotenoid reduces stroke risk more than others, the researchers suggested. “Lycopene is a potent antioxidant and the most effective quencher of singlet oxygen, and it was reported to be more effective than beta-carotene in cell protection against hydrogen peroxide and nitrogen dioxide radicals.”

Lycopene is also known to reduce inflammation, block cholesterol synthesis, boost immune function, and inhibit platelet aggregation and thrombosis.

“Results of the present study show that high serum concentrations of lycopene, as a marker of intake of tomatoes and tomato-based products, decrease the risk of any stroke and ischemic stroke in men,” the researchers wrote. “Thus, a balanced diet including fruits and vegetables may prevent stroke.”


  1. Karppi J et al. Neurology. 2012; 79: 1540-1547.