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Carotenoids are red, yellow, and orange pigments found in fruits and vegetables that exert antioxidant, anti-inflammatory, and anticancer properties. Lycopene (which is found in tomatoes and watermelon) and lutein (which is found in green leafy vegetables) are among the most abundant carotenoids in the human diet. Findings from a recent study suggest that consuming vegetables that are high in lycopene and lutein can help reduce visceral fat in obese men.

Visceral fat is body fat that is stored in the abdominal cavity close to internal organs such as the liver, pancreas, and intestines. In contrast to subcutaneous fat, which is located under the skin, visceral fat plays a central role in the interrelationship between obesity and systemic inflammation through its secretion of proinflammatory cytokines. The accumulation of visceral fat is linked to type 2 diabetes, insulin resistance, inflammatory diseases, certain types of cancer, cardiovascular disease, and other obesity-related diseases.

The randomized, double-blinded, controlled clinical trial involved 28 men between the ages of 40 and 65 years who were overweight or obese. The authors of the eight-week study randomly assigned the participants to consume a beverage containing one of four edible pastes that contained high lycopene/high lutein; high lycopene/low lutein; low lycopene/high lutein; or low lycopene/low lutein. The authors measured the levels of carotenoids in the participants' plasma.

The participants' carotenoid levels increased in every group and they experienced no adverse effects. Their visceral fat levels decreased for all groups, too, but waist circumference decreased only for the men in the high lycopene/low lutein group.

These findings suggest that high carotenoid intake can help with weight loss. They also support epidemiological data indicating that vegetable intake can play a positive role in modulating body weight. For a tasty way to include more carotenoids in your diet, check out this video in which Dr. Rhonda Patrick shows how to make her carotenoid-rich smoothie.

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