BackgroundThere are several effective therapies for osteoporosis but these agents might cause serious adverse events. Lycopene intake could prevent bone loss, however studies on its effects on bone are scarce. Our aim was to investigate the effects of lycopene on osteoblast cells as well as bone mineral density and bone turnover markers in postmenopausal women.MethodsWe investigated the effect of lycopene on the Wnt/β-catenin and ERK 1/2 pathways, RUNX2, alkaline phosphatase, RANKL and COL1A of Saos-2. We also carried out a pilot controlled clinical study to verify the feasibility of an approach for bone loss prevention through the intake of a lycopene-rich tomato sauce in 39 postmenopausal women.ResultsLycopene 10 µM resulted in higher β-catenin and phERK1/2 protein Vs the vehicle (p = 0.04 and p = 0.006). RUNX2 and COL1A mRNA was induced by both 5 and 10 µM doses (p = 0.03; p = 0.03 and p = 0.03; p = 0.05) while RANKL mRNA was reduced (p < 0.05). A significant bone density loss was not detected in women taking the tomato sauce while the control group had bone loss (p = 0.002). Tomato sauce intake resulted in a greater bone alkaline phosphatase reduction than the control (18% vs 8.5%, p = 0.03).ConclusionsLycopene activates the WNT/β-catenin and ERK1/2 pathways, upregulates RUNX2, alkaline phosphatase, COL1A and downregulates RANKL Saos-2. These processes contributed to prevent bone loss in postmenopausal women.