Forschungs- & Entwicklungsinformationsdienst der Gemeinschaft - CORDIS

Periodic Management Report Summary - LYCOCARD (Role of lycopene for the prevention of cardiovascular diseases)

Cardiovascular diseases and cancer are the main mortality causes in Europe and all developed territories. Lycopene is a plant pigment found in high concentration in tomato, pink grapefruit, watermelon, and papaya. Tomatoes are Europe's second-most important agricultural crop, and tomatoes and tomato products are the main lycopene sources in the diet. Strong supportive data from several epidemiological studies suggest that lycopene may provide important protection against cardiovascular diseases and cancer. However, lycopene content of tomatoes and processed tomato products and lycopene's beneficial effects, have not been sufficiently linked because research has lacked a 'total food chain' approach. The missing links in this chain are: Formulating improved nutritional guidelines, and the evaluation of in vivo effects of healthy new foods. There are also many details regarding bioavailability, metabolism, and molecular mechanisms of lycopene biological activities that are still unknown.

LYCOCARD investigated the role of lycopene in reducing the risk of cardiovascular diseases, adopting a 'total food chain' approach by addressing each link in a 'farm to fork' approach for future projects to increase the understanding of diet and health. Specifically, LYCOCARD clarified the following points:
- effects of technological processing on lycopene;
- interactions between different food ingredients;
- molecular aspects of absorption and metabolism of lycopene;
- biological effects of lycopene isomers and lycopene metabolites.
This information would lead to improved nutritional guidelines and healthy new foods based on tomatoes and other dietary sources containing lycopene. These novel dietary guidelines would help consumers to select specific diets which protect them against disease risk. LYCOCARD would therefore improve the health of European consumers and reduce the costs of health systems, while also significantly advancing the state of the art. In addition, the position of the European food industry would be strengthened by increasing the demand for health-related tomato products and other newly developed healthful foods.

LYCOCARD had gained important insights for science, industry and the consumer. Improved experimental conditions within cell experiments as well as new knowledge for the absorption of lycopene into cells had provided the base for ongoing mechanistic and human intervention studies. Investigations of the stability of bioactive tomato compounds and on the influence of processing and storage conditions enable the food industry and the consumer to manufacture and / or consume tomato products with higher contents of bioactive ingredients.

Accompanying these investigations, a literature search related to epidemiological studies and further studies dealing with tomatoes and cardiovascular health had been done within the fourth project year. LYCOCARD also collaborated with the Framingham Heart Study of Boston University, United States, to have the Framingham data re-evaluated in relation to lycopene uptake and the use of tomatoes / tomato products to reduce the risk of cardiovascular diseases.

This project provided information on the connection between the consumption of lycopene and/or tomato products and the risk of heart illnesses. In addition, nutritional information is to be evaluated five times within 20 years with regard to this context. The total aim of LYCOCARD was to show that high long-term consumption of lycopene is linked to a reduced risk of cardiovascular illnesses. The connection between lycopene absorption and heart diseases was studied and, in addition, the link between the consumption of tomato products and heart diseases. Thus, the LYCOCARD network provided mechanistic data as well as results from intervention studies; it could both complete these data and strengthen their long-term importance.

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