Experts say tomatoes, one of the most common garden fruits help prevent heart attack and strokes. Thousands of people at risk from heart disease or a stroke will beneﬁt from a cancer-ﬁghting extract found in tomatoes, new research shows. A powerful antioxidant present in fruit and vegetables widened the blood vessels of cardiovascular disease patients by more than a half. Doctors now believe a daily dose of the “tomato pill” may cut the danger of heart attacks by countering the constriction of blood vessels suffered by patients.
Study leader Dr. Joseph Cheriyan, said: “It reinforces the need for a healthy diet in people at risk from heart disease and stroke. “A daily ‘tomato pill’ is not a substitute for other treatments, but may provide added beneﬁts when taken alongside other medication.” Previous research has shown that those who eat a Mediterranean diet rich in fruit, vegetables, and olive oil have lower levels of cardiovascular disease.
The way of eating favoured in countries of southern Europe also helps those who have previously had cardiovascular disease, research has proven. The component of the Mediterranean diet thought to play a role in cutting this risk is lycopene, which is 10 times more potent than vitamin E. However, the way lycopene lowers cardiovascular risk has been unclear until now. Dr. Cheriyan of Addenbrooke’s Hospital and Cambridge University said: “We’ve shown quite clearly that lycopene improves the function of blood vessels in cardiovascular disease patients.”
In the trial 36 cardiovascular patients and 36 healthy ones were given Ateronon – an off-the-shelf supplement containing 7mg of lycopene – or a placebo treatment. Supplement Ateronon contains lycopene, the component in tomatoes 10 times more potent than vitamin E. The results found that lycopene improved the widening of the blood vessels in heart patients by over a half (53 percent) compared to those taking the placebo. It is also believed that Ateronon pills can increase blood vessel flow by 50% with people suffering from cardiac problems.
Researchers measured the function of blood vessels, called forearm blood ﬂow, which is predictive of future cardiovascular risk. The patients with the disease were all on cholesterol- lowering statins. However, despite this, they still had a relatively impaired function of the endothelium – the inner lining of blood vessels – compared to healthy volunteers. Having a healthy endothelium is an important factor in preventing heart disease. The researchers found that the oral lycopene supplement improved and normalised endothelial function in the patients.
Doctors believe the study conﬁrms that lycopene could be a key compound in protecting patients. Coronary heart disease is the UK’s biggest killer, claiming the lives of nearly one in six men and more than one in 10 women. Strokes kill more than 41,000 in the UK annually, with around 57,000 men and 68,000 women in England suffering one each year. “There’s a wealth of research that suggests that the Mediterranean diet – which includes lycopene found in tomatoes and other fruit as a component – is good for our cardiovascular health,” said Dr. Cheriyan. “But so far, it’s been a mystery what the underlying mechanisms could be.”
Tomatoes are one of the best sources, particularly tomato juice and sauces where the tomatoes are heated and served with a small amount of fat, such as olive oil. While ketchup also contains lycopene, experts say you would have to eat an entire 200ml bottle a day – also high in sugar and salt – to reap the beneﬁts. Professor Jeremy Pearson of the British Heart Foundation, said: “Impaired endothelial function is a known predictor of increased risk of future heart disease.” The results of the research by Dr. Cheriyan’s team were published in the journal PLOS One.
Let us hope that one of the most common diseases can be controlled by this South American fruit. Just like the saying for an Apple goes maybe we could also say in the future ‘A tomato a day keeps the doctor away’.
- Article by Laura Holland published in Daily Express.