Saturday, February 13, 2010

lycopene, painkillers and Kidney disease

Painkillers (analgesics) are bad for you. They are nasty chemicals that your body must get ride of. You can view them as a poison and that is why some are used by people to commit suicide. However they are really useful substances. I am very grateful for painkillers. When you are in pain this is nothing like that wonderful feeling that washes over you as your painkillers kick in.

Kidneys filter out poisons in your blood stream (using the P450 pathway). Thus kidney disease may be caused by painkillers as the kidneys have to work overtime to get ride of the painkillers.  

Lycopene is a red pigment (picture on left)  in fruits and vegetables, most famous fore being an antioxidant in tomatoes.

A study looked at the blood levels of lycopene and chronic kidney disease.  Chronic kidney disease (CKD) is when your kidney is basically stuffed. It can be caused by diabetes, high blood pressure along with other reasons. The study found that higher lycopene levels reduced the probability of chronic liver disease. Specially:
  • Plasma lycopene level ≥17.97 μg/dL had probability of 0.32 of CKD
  • Plasma lycopene level ≥17.97 or 7.72–17.97 μg/dL had probability of 0.49 of CKD
  • When compared with a plasma lycopene level <7.72 μg/dL
A significantly higher risk was demonstrated in analgesic users than in non-users. This confirming that kidneys might be overworked with painkillers. However interestingly enough a significantly lower risk was shown in subjects who used analgesics on an as-needed basis than in non-users. This means people who do not use painkillers have a higher risk of CKF than those who us them periodically. I wonder if this is due to the stress that the body has when it is in pain.

The question is it the high lycopene intake that helps prevent kidney disease or is high lycopene indicative of a high fruit and vegetable diet which would be high in other antioxidants/micro nutrients? Either way this is great reason to eat high lycopene fruits and vegetables, lifting a list of wikipedia we find that:

Dietary sources of lycopene
Source μg/g wet weight
Gac 2,000–2,300
Raw tomato 8.8–42
Tomato juice 86–100
Tomato sauce 63–131
Tomato ketchup 124
Watermelon 23–72
Pink grapefruit 3.6–34
Pink guava 54
Papaya 20–53
Rosehip puree 7.8
Apricot < 0.1

Also red bell pepper, seabuckthorn, wolfberry(Gojiberry) contain lycopene. The two question that brings to mind is how much should I eat of these to raise my blood plasma levels to where do I get some≥17.97 μg/dL and where do I get some Gac from? Hopefully I will find the answers to these questions as I continue my journey through life.

Reference: Shou-Shan Chiang M.D., Cheng-Wei Tai M.S., Chi-Jung Chung M.S., Horng-Sheng Shiue M.D., Jin-Bor Chen M.D., Chien-Tien Su M.D. and Yu-Mei Hsueh Ph.D. Micronutrients and lifestyles in Taiwanese patients with stage 3 to 5 chronic kidney disease. Nutrition. Volume 26, Issue 3, March 2010, Pages 276-282. doi:10.1016/j.nut.2009.04.021


  1. I understand that pain killers are bad but when the pain never stops and pain killers only take the edge off, I will take the pain killers.