Tomato Phytonutrients Balance UV Response: Results from a Double-Blind, Randomized, Placebo-Controlled Study

Skin Pharmacol Physiol. 2019;32(2):101-108. doi: 10.1159/000497104. Epub 2019 Mar 5.


Background: Our previous double-blinded, placebo-controlled cross-over study indicated that a nutritional supplement named lycopene-rich tomato nutrient complex (TNC) can protect from UVA1-induced (340-400 nm) and UVA- (320-400 nm)/UVB-induced (280-320 nm) upregulation of molecular markers associated with oxidative stress, inflammation, and ageing.

Objectives: in the current double-blind, randomized, placebo-controlled multicenter study, we analyze whether a similar, synergistic carotenoid-rich TNC can protect from broadband UVB-induced threshold erythema formation assessed as increase in minimal erythemal dose (MED) reading, the intensity of erythema formation, and the upregulation of molecular markers associated with inflammation and immunosuppression, and whether this correlates with carotenoid blood levels.

Methods: One hundred and forty-nine healthy volunteers were randomized to two groups and subjected to a 5-week washout phase, followed by a 12-week treatment phase receiving either 15 mg lycopene, 5.8 mg phytoene and phytofluene, 0.8 mg β-carotene, 5.6 mg tocopherols from tomato extract, and 4 mg carnosic acid from rosemary extract per day or placebo made from medium-chain triglycerides. At the end of each phase, MED determination, UVB irradiation, chromametry, biopsies, and blood samples were undertaken.

Results: The active supplement was well tolerated. Interestingly, no significant difference was seen in the MED between the active-supplement and placebo groups, as determined by visual grading by expert assessors. Of note, the carotenoid-containing supplement significantly protected against UVB-induced erythema formation measured as Δa* after the intervention minus Δa* after the washout phase as compared to the placebo. Moreover, intake of the active supplement significantly protected against UVB-induced upregulation of IL6 and TNFα as compared with the intake of placebo. Lastly, carotenoid plasma levels were significantly increased.

Conclusion: This well-tolerated carotenoid-containing supplement significantly protected against UVB-induced erythema formation and upregulation of proinflammatory cytokines in healthy volunteers.

Keywords: Carotenoids; Double-blind, randomized, placebo-controlled study; Erythema formation; Oral photoprotection; UVB.

Publication types

  • Multicenter Study
  • Randomized Controlled Trial

MeSH terms

  • Adult
  • Antioxidants / pharmacology*
  • Carotenoids / pharmacology*
  • Cytokines / genetics
  • Dietary Supplements*
  • Double-Blind Method
  • Erythema / genetics
  • Erythema / prevention & control*
  • Female
  • Gene Expression Regulation / drug effects
  • Gene Expression Regulation / radiation effects
  • Humans
  • Lycopersicon esculentum / chemistry*
  • Male
  • Middle Aged
  • Phytochemicals / pharmacology*
  • Radiation-Protective Agents / pharmacology*
  • Skin / drug effects
  • Skin / metabolism
  • Skin / radiation effects
  • Ultraviolet Rays / adverse effects*
  • Young Adult


  • Antioxidants
  • Cytokines
  • Phytochemicals
  • Radiation-Protective Agents
  • Carotenoids