Lycopene, the main carotenoid in tomato, has been shown to be a potent antioxidant in vitro. However, there is no significant evidence of its antioxidant action in vivo.
We evaluated the effect of tomato intake on plasma carotenoid concentrations and lymphocyte resistance to oxidative stress.
Ten healthy women (divided into 2 groups of 5 subjects each) ate a diet containing tomato puree (providing 16.5 mg lycopene) and a tomato-free diet for 21 d each in a crossover design. Before and after each diet period, plasma carotenoid concentrations and primary lymphocyte resistance to oxidative stress (evaluated by means of single-cell gel electrophoresis) were analyzed.
After the first 21-d experimental period, total plasma lycopene concentrations increased by 0.5 micromol/L (95% CI: 0.14, 0.87) in the group that consumed the tomato diet and decreased by 0.2 micromol/L (95% CI: -0.11, -0.30) in the group that consumed the tomato-free diet (P < 0.001). Tomato consumption also had an effect on cellular antioxidant capacity: lymphocyte DNA damage after ex vivo treatment with hydrogen peroxide decreased by 33% (95% CI: 0.8%, 61%; P < 0.05) and by 42% (95% CI: 5.1%, 78%; P < 0.05) in the 2 groups of subjects after consumption of the tomato diet.
The consumption of tomato products may reduce the susceptibility of lymphocyte DNA to oxidative damage.