VeggieWorld 2: Rise of the LycopenesBy | On Oct 16, 2012
A recent study suggest an alarming fact; more and more strokes are occurring in younger people. The study examined data of almost 6,000 people in Ohio and Kentucky who suffered a stroke from 1993 to 2005. In 1994 about 13% of all first time strokes occurred in those between 20 and 55 years of age. In 2005 that had increased to almost 19%. This increase in the stroke rate for younger patients caused the average age for first stroke to drop from 71 to 69 years of age; quite a disturbing trend. Although the study was regional, a national data analysis performed by the CDC in 2011 found a similar trend nationwide; possibly as a result of a higher prevalence of diabetes, hypertension and smoking among younger people in addition to better detection methods.
But there is some encouraging news. A Finnish study of over 1,000 men aged 45 to 65 found that high levels of lycopenes may be associated with a lower stroke risk. The men were followed for over a decade and those with higher lycopene levels were less likely to have either an ischemic stroke or any stroke in general. There was a 59% reduction in ischemic strokes and a 55% reduction in any type of stroke. Those with among the lowest lycopene levels were also those who smoked, suggesting a possible mechanism by which smoking (a known risk factor for stroke) may be involved in the pathophysiology of stroke.
Lycopenes are very potent anti-oxidants. They are found in red fruits and vegetables like tomatoes, red bell peppers, papayas and watermelons. Lycopenes are a type of carotenoid; these are the family of compounds that give fruits and vegetables their non-green colors (reds, yellows, orange, etc.). Like all carotenoids, lycopene is polyunsaturated hydrocarbon. This means it is insoluble in water. This is why consuming tomatoes with some fats like olive oil helps increase the bio-availability of nutrients like lycopenes.