Background: The role of dietary lycopene in chronic disease prevention is not well known.
Methods: This study examined intake of lycopene and other antioxidants from lycopene-rich foods (e.g., pizza and pasta) simultaneously with plasma levels of lycopene and other antioxidants in a representative cross-sectional sample (187 Blacks, 182 Whites, 40-79 years old) from the Southern Community Cohort Study (SCCS). The SCCS is an ongoing study conducted in populations at high risk for chronic diseases living in Southeastern United States. Dietary intake was assessed using a validated food frequency questionnaire (FFQ), and plasma levels of lycopene and other antioxidants were measured at baseline (2002-2005). The participants were classified into tertiles according to consumption of pizza and pasta food groups.
Results: Lycopene dietary intake and plasma lycopene concentrations were significantly higher in the highest (tertile 3) compared to tertiles 1 and 2 (both P < 0.01). Total energy intake ranged from 1964.3 ± 117.1 kcal/day (tertile 1) to 3277.7 ± 115.8 kcal/day (tertile 3) (P<0.0001). After adjusting for age and energy intake, total dietary fat, saturated fatty acids, trans-fatty acids, and sodium intakes were significantly higher in tertile 3 than tertiles 2 and 1 (all P <0.01). Vitamin C intake was significantly lower in tertile 3 than tertiles 1 and 2 (P = 0.003). Except for γ-tocopherol being higher in tertile 3 than tertiles 1 and 2 (P = 0.015), the plasma concentrations of antioxidants were lower in tertile 3 than tertiles 1 and 2 (β-carotene, α-carotene, lutein and zeaxanthin, all P<0.05).
Conclusions: In the SCCS population, pizza and pasta were the main sources of dietary lycopene and their intake was associated with plasma lycopene concentration. Diets with frequent pizza and pasta consumption were high in energy, saturated fatty acids, trans-fatty acids, sodium and low in other antioxidants. Future studies of lycopene as a protective dietary factor against chronic disease should consider the overall nutritional quality of lycopene-containing foods.