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J Nutr. 1999 Apr;129(4):849-54.

Plasma lycopene concentrations in humans are determined by lycopene intake, plasma cholesterol concentrations and selected demographic factors.

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Department of Epidemiology, Yale University School of Medicine, New Haven, CT, 06520, USA.


Higher plasma lycopene concentrations have been associated with a reduced risk of several chronic diseases. Determinants of lycopene concentrations in humans have received limited attention. We had blood lycopene concentrations and lycopene consumption data available from 111 participants in a two-center cancer prevention trial involving beta-carotene and examined determinants of plasma lycopene levels cross-sectionally. The median plasma lycopene level was 0.59 micromol/L (range 0.07-1.79). Low plasma concentrations of lycopene were associated with the following variables in univariate analyses: study site (Florida lower than Connecticut, P = 0.001), being nonmarried (P = 0.02), having lower income (P = 0.003), being nonwhite race/ethnicity (P = 0.03), having lower dietary lycopene intake (r = 0.29, P = 0.002), having lower plasma cholesterol (r = 0. 43, P = 0.0001) and triglyceride levels (r = 0.26, P = 0.005), and consuming less vitamin C (r = 0.20, P = 0.03). Women had slightly higher plasma lycopene levels than men (0.65 vs. 0.58 micromol/L; P = 0.31), despite lower dietary intake of lycopene (1,040 vs. 1,320 microg/d; P = 0.50). Plasma lycopene levels did not differ in smokers and nonsmokers. In stepwise regression analyses, the determinants of plasma lycopene were plasma cholesterol, dietary lycopene, and marital status; these three variables explained 26% of the variance in plasma lycopene. Relatively few lifestyle and demographic factors were important determinants of plasma lycopene levels, with plasma cholesterol, marital status, and lycopene intake being of greatest importance.

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