Lycopene as effective as statins for artery health: rabbit study

July 21, 2008

Lycopene is the carotenoid that gives tomatoes their red color. Lycopene supplements may be as effective as statins in reducing the formation of plaques in the arteries that cause atherosclerosis according to the results of a newly published study using rabbits. The role of lycopene in heart health and in reducing the risk of certain cancers is supported by a body of research.

Scientists from the Central South University in Changsha, China divided 40 male adult rabbits into five equal groups to consume a standard diet, a high-fat diet, a high-fat diet plus 4 or 12mg per kg of lycopene, or the high-fat diet plus 10mg per kg of Fluvastatin (the generic name for the statin drug Lescol). The animals consumed the diets for eight weeks. The researchers used a relatively high dose of lycopene (4 and 12 mg/kg of body weight) because rabbits reportedly do not absorb the nutrient efficiently. These doses produced blood levels of the carotenoid of 0.19 and 0.24 moles per liter respectively. "This corresponds to low plasma levels of lycopene in humans who may achieve five-fold higher levels already with the intake of only 0.3 mg/kg of body weight," explained the authors.

At the end of the study, the animals fed only the high-fat diet had higher levels of total and LDL cholesterol, triglycerides, and oxidized LDL than animals fed the standard diet. However, animals fed the high-fat diet and supplemented with lycopene or fluvastatin had improved levels of these biomarkers, and the lycopene at both doses was better than the statin. "The results of our experiment in the high-fat diet rabbit model showed that lycopene and fluvastatin lowered serum levels of total cholesterol and LDL-cholesterol, improved lipid metabolism, and reduced the amount of triglycerides," wrote the authors. "Lycopene intervention reduced the increase in ox-LDL (rancid LDL) levels in rabbits on the high-fat diet, whereas fluvastatin did not show such an effect. The cause of this difference is at present not known, although the result speaks in favor of lycopene," they added.

"These findings provide a theoretical rationale for the use of lycopene as a preventive in atherosclerosis," they concluded. Atherosclerosis, or hardening of the arteries, is a major risk factor for cardiovascular disease. The study is published online ahead of print in the June 30th, 2008 issue of the journal Nutrition.

FDA Issues strongest warning on Cipro, Floxin and similar antibiotics; many developing ruptured tendons

Federal drug safety officials in Washington have imposed the government's most urgent warning on Cipro and similar antibiotics, citing risks that they can cause tendon ruptures, a serious injury that leaves some patients incapacitated.

The Food and Drug Administration on Tuesday ordered makers of fluoroquinolones — a potent class of antibiotic drugs — to add a 'black box' warning to their products. This family of drugs includes Cipro, Penetrex, Levaquin, Floxin, Noroxin and other medications.

Serious reports of tendonitis and tendon rupture continue to increase with use of the drugs, prompting the FDA to ask companies to add the stronger warnings, the FDA said in a posting on its Web site Tuesday. Such ruptures most frequently involve the Achilles tendon, but also include ruptures of the shoulder, hand, biceps, and thumbs.

The risk of tendonitis and tendon rupture associated with the drugs is "especially increased" in patients older than 60, and in those with kidney, heart or lung transplants. The FDA said it will also ask the companies to create a medication guide - which will be given to patients - to alert them about possible side effects.