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Lycopene Studied in Lung Health

Lycopene, a carotenoid with significant antioxidant activity, was studied in a mouse model of allergic airway disease (asthma). The American Academy of Allergy, Asthma and Immunology (AAAAI) reports that approximately 34.1 million Americans have been diagnosed with asthma during their lifetime. Between 1980 and 1994, the prevalence of asthma increased 75 percent overall and by 160 percent in children under the age of five. Additionally, the AAAAI estimates that the number of people with asthma will grow by more than 100 million by 2025.

In this recently published study, researchers evaluated the effect of lycopene supplementation on allergic inflammation in a mouse model of asthma. Mice were supplemented with lycopene or the standard diet and then were sensitized and challenged with ovalbumin to induce allergic airway disease; ovalbumin is the main protein found in egg white that is commonly used to stimulate an allergic reaction in research. The mice were evaluated for numerous indicators of allergic reactions including influx of inflammatory cells into the lungs and blood, the number of mucous-secreting cells in the airways, lymph node cytokine (signaling molecule) release specific for ovalbumin, serum immunoglobulin levels of IgG1 and lung function.

The results of the study indicated that the mice that received lycopene supplementation had decreased levels of eosinophils in the lung fluid, lung tissue and blood. Eosinophils are the white blood cells associated with allergic reactions. There was also a decrease in the number of mucous-secreting cells in the airways in the mice that received lycopene. In addition, there was a reduction in the ovalbumin-specific release of the pro-inflammatory cytokines interleukin (IL)-4 and IL-5, which are associated with allergic reactions of the immune system known as a Th2 response.

The study authors stated, “We conclude that supplementation with lycopene reduces allergic inflammation both in the lungs and systemically, by decreasing Th2 cytokine responses. Thus, lycopene supplementation may have a protective effect against asthma.”

This article was published on Thursday March 07, 2013.
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Hazlewood LC, Wood LG, Hansbro PM, Foster PS. Dietary lycopene supplementation suppresses Th2 responses and lung eosinophilia in a mouse model of allergic asthma. J Nutr Biochem. 2010 Apr 12. Published Online Ahead of Print.