Carotenoids and Bone Health by Dr. Karin Hermoni

Summertime is just around the corner, and we all want to look our best. While we tend to focus on extra fat or loose muscles, we forget to think about our bones. According to a recent study, losing weight might result in lower bone density. This is especially true for middle-aged women.

Bones don’t just support and protect the soft tissues and organs of our body, they also produce red and white blood cells, store minerals, and help us move. Bones are dynamic organs composed of several types of cells, and they’re constantly being remodeled. The functional mass of bone is controlled by a balance between bone resorption and bone formation. Osteoporosis is a state where bone resorption exceeds bone formation leading to a gradual decrease in density. It’s a silent disease, and it occurs primarily in post-menopausal women due to estrogen loss; however, one in four men will also suffer from osteoporotic bone loss.

So—how do we protect our bones? One way to go about it is nutrition. It’s common knowledge that adequate amounts of calcium and vitamin D are crucial for maintaining bone health, but they aren’t the only things we need. Some foods and natural ingredients have been shown to help protect bones, too. Carotenoids, for example, are natural pigments abundant in fruits and vegetables. Lycopene, the red pigment found in tomatoes, has been extensively researched due to its known antioxidant effect.

In a lycopene intervention study performed in post-menopausal women, consumption of either lycopene-rich tomato juice or Lycored’s tomato extract supplement was found to reduce oxidative stress as well as lower the level of bone resorption marker NTX.

Some laboratory studies suggest that lycopene supports the bone-forming cells in our body called osteoblasts while attenuating the development and resorbing activity of the bone-destroying cells called osteoclasts. Both of these actions are due to lycopene’s anti-inflammatory and antioxidant activity.

It’s well known that estrogen is essential for healthy bones, and that when the production of estrogen is reduced (as occurs in postmenopausal women), bones become brittle and break easily. Some laboratory studies suggest that lycopene-derived products can maintain normal estrogenic activity in bone cells where this activity is beneficial while also working to reduce the estrogenic activity in breast cells which is known to pose a risk for breast cancer.

So if you want to do something good for your bones this summer, or any time, consider lycopene (from the diet or as a supplement) as an alternative natural treatment for the prevention of osteoporosis and the support of bone health.



1. Tirosh, A., de Souza, R.J., Saks, F., Bray, G.A., Smith, S.R., and LeBoff, M.S. J Clin Endocrinol Metab jc20151050, 2015.

2. Mackinnon, E.S., Rao, A.V., Josse, R.G., and Rao, L.G. Osteoporos Int. 22: 1091-101, 2011.

3. Mackinnon, E.S., Rao, A.V., and Rao, L.G. J Nutr Health Aging. 15: 133-8, 2011.

4. Veprik, A., Khanin, M., Linnewiel Hermoni, K., Danilenko, M., Levy, J., and Sharoni, Y. Am J Physiol Endocrnal