Thursday, November 22, 2012

Dr. Oz: lycopene lowers cholesterol?


Does lycopene lower cholesterol?

Well, if you believe one of the most well known doctors in the United States, Dr. Oz, you would think that lycopene lowers LDL cholesterol “as much as statins”.
Dr. Oz is often cited by my patients.
Dr. Oz has a TV show, and along with Dr. Roizen, he has a regular newspaper column providing a “tip of the week”.

In their recent column, they advise that we can simply consume a half-cup of tomato sauce daily to lower LDL cholesterol as much as statins.

I say: get real!
Okay even if we were to consume that much tomato sauce (sauce not juice) daily, what is the evidence that lycopene found in such foods as tomatoes, actually lowers LDL cholesterol (the bad cholesterol)?

Quick answer: none. No evidence.

There are absolutely no randomized, placebo controlled clinical studies that demonstrate cholesterol lowering with lycopene.
And there are no studies examining lycopene versus statin.

And the best published study I could find with lycopene showed no effect on LDL cholesterol levels.

And you may ask what is lycopene? 


It is the chemical that gives tomatoes and red bell peppers their red color.
It also has antioxidant properties. And if you have read my previous post on antioxidants you can see through those dubious antioxidant claims.

Okay, but where did Oz and Roizen come up with this idea about lycopene?

I really don't know. I did not call and ask either of them before writing this post.

But I think they probably got excited after seeing a recent publication.
That epidemiologic study found that men who had higher lycopene levels in their blood seemed to have fewer strokes over a 12 year period of time.
This study is interesting but it proves nothing. 

As with all studies of associations, this report does not prove that consuming lots of foods high in lycopene will reduce your risk of stroke. And this study did not evaluate the effect of lycopene on cholesterol. 

Drs. Oz and Roizen often make bold statements based upon this kind of association type study.
These judgments on their part represent uncritical, uninformed thinking.
This type of conclusion misleads.
This type of conclusion is junk science. Other physicians have been very critical of Dr. Oz.

You may ask: do I recommend my patients eat a variety of foods including fruits and vegetables?
Of course I do.
And I also recommend that they not read or watch Dr. Oz.

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