Lycopene is a carotene found in tomato and its derivatives. It is believed to have antioxidant benefits and possible beneficial effects for diabetes patients. So, is lycopene really good for diabetes? Some studies have found that carotenoids reduce oxidative stress, which plays a key role in the development and progression of diabetes mellitus. Besides, some studies indicate that it may help diabetics to prevent neuropathic disorders and cardiovascular disease.
How does lycopene reverse oxidative stress in diabetics?
First of all, let’s get to know the relationship of free radicals, oxidative stress and diabetes. A free radical means an oxygen containing molecule that is highly reactive with other molecules because it has one or more unpaired electrons. And the buildup of free radicals causes oxidative stress, which has been implicated as a contributor to the onset and the progression of diabetes. In addition, this imbalance between free radicals and the body’s antioxidant defense system is believed to be associated with diabetes complications too.
It is worth mentioning that insulin resistance doesn’t have to turn into diabetes, but it increases the risk of developing type 2 diabetes and prediabetes. Another similar risk factor is impaired glucose tolerance (IGT), which is a pre-diabetic state of hyperglycemia. In theory, fighting oxidative stress could boost the defense against diabetes and other major health problems. For that reason, intake of lycopene, a carotenoid with potent antioxidant properties, is regarded as a potential therapeutic approach to protect or reverse oxidative stress. That’s to say, lycopene can aid in diabetes control and reduce the risk of diabetic complications such as blindness, cardiovascular disease, erectile dysfunction, neuropathic disorders, and so on.
Research on diabetes and lycopene
While there is evidence in support of a link between lycopene and decreased type 2 diabetes risk, some studies suggest that increased lycopene consumption in the diet does not help at all.
In 2007, a study was conducted to evaluate the effect of lycopene supplements on diabetics. After two months, the researchers found that some important indicators of cardiovascular health have been greatly improved in diabetes patients who were given lycopene supplements. Later, this study was published in the Journal of Endocrinological Investigation.
In 2011, Valero MA and his team ever analyzed the role of lycopene in type 2 diabetes mellitus. After they carried out a systematic review and meta-analysis, they concluded that there is no evidence for the association between lycopene intake and the risk for having diabetes. And later the result was published in Nutr Hosp.
Tips on the use of lycopene in diabetes
As mentioned above, tomato lycopene may have a beneficial effect on the oxidative stress in diabetic patients. Even though it hasn’t, at the very least it can offer other health benefits, ranging from scavenging free radicals to preventing oxidative damage to DNA, thanks to its potent antioxidant activity.
When it comes to sources of lycopene in foods, tomatoes should be familiar to everyone. Compared to raw tomatoes, tomato paste, juice or other tomato products are considered a better way to get lycopene. Besides, other natural sources of dietary lycopene also include guava, watermelon, pink grapefruit, salad dressing, papaya, apricots, and so on. Of course, it is available in supplement form too. However, it is a good idea to always check with the doctor before starting lycopene supplementation for diabetes management or other purposes although it is likely safe when consumed in appropriate amounts, According to the National Institutes of Health (NIH).