The Durk Pearson & Sandy Shaw®
Life Extension NewsTM
Volume 18 No. 4 • January 2016


The data in a paper (Rafi, 2007) indicated potent anti-inflammatory effects of the carotenoid lycopene that, as part of a natural chemical pathway, inhibits COX. Via its two forms COX1 and COX2, COX converts arachidonic acid to inflammatory prostaglandins, such as the powerful inflammatory prostaglandin E2 (PGE2) (though under some conditions PGE2 can be anti-inflammatory). PGE2 is a known factor in virtually all inflammatory diseases, including cardiovascular disease, cancer, diabetes type 2, arthritis, inflammatory bowel disease, epilepsy, Alzheimer’s disease, and many others.

COX-1 is constitutively expressed, while COX-2 is an inducible enzyme that “mediates acute and chronic inflammation, pain, and cellular repair mechanisms.” (Rafi, 2007) The authors believe that the results of data from studies of lycopene “suggest that inhibition of COX2 may be effective in preventing infammatory-associated cancers.” (This suggestion, from 2007, was supported by later work.) The authors concluded: “Therefore, using lycopene or [lycopene-containing] tomato-based products to regulate the production of NO and COX-2 may be classified as a therapeutic approach for the treatment or prevention of chronic inflammatory disease.”

Sandy Gets Some Relief From The Pain Of Her Arthritic Knees With Lycopene

Unfortunately, Sandy has a moderate case of knee osteoarthritis. We had run out of lycopene and after a few days to a couple of weeks she had noticed more pain in her knees. The day she went back on lycopene (we both used 15 mg a day, though Sandy has upped hers to 30 mg a day now that she has felt the difference), she was aware of much more comfort in walking. The best way to take it is with the fattiest meal of the day, as it is absorbed best with fats.

It is also interesting that lycopene is another one of the natural products that inhibits formation of inflammatory prostaglandins. See (Shaw, 2015) “Why the Niacin Flush May Be Surprisingly Beneficial to Your Health” by Sandy Shaw for a discussion in Part I under the subheading “What Is the Niacin Flush? of inflammation and the prostaglandins that play such a major role in it, particularly PGE2 and PGD2. PGD2 is prostaglandin D2 that is released, causing the niacin flush, and which counters the effects of inflammatory PGE2 when released as a pulse, but there are many ways other than taking niacin to interfere with PGE2-induced inflammation. Lycopene is one such effective antiinflammatory nutrient.

Note that COX-2 inhibitors such as Celebrex are widely used for treating arthritis and, unlike the prescription COX-2 inhibiting drugs, there is no evidence that lycopene increases the risk of cardiovascular disease. Indeed, lycopene reduces the risk, possibly (at least in part) because of its powerful antioxidant activity.

Sandy Shaw (2015) paper, Part I, is found in the Life Enhancement website,, August 2015. []


  • Rafi, Yadav, Reyes. Lycopene inhibits LPS-induced proinflammatory mediator inducible nitric oxide synthase in mouse macrophage cells. J Food Sci. 72(1):S69-S74 (2007).

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