Can taking a pill made from TOMATOES really help your heart health?
Whether it’s sliced fresh in a salad or sandwich or cooked in a delicious spaghetti bolognaise or lasagne, it’s an absolute staple in so many of our homes. But eating this brilliant red fruit isn’t just a delight, it also provides a whole host of unexpected health benefits.
Plump and juicy, bursting with flavour and essential to so many wonderful recipes, it’s no wonder the humble tomato is a firm favourite for most Brits.
Whether it’s sliced fresh in a salad or sandwich or cooked in a delicious spaghetti bolognaise or lasagne, it’s an absolute staple in so many of our homes.
But eating this brilliant red fruit isn’t just a delight, it also provides a whole host of unexpected health benefits.
LYCOPENE, THE WONDER INGREDIENT
Key to this protection is one of the compounds in carotenoids called lycopene.
Nutritionist Rick Hay explains: ‘Lycopene is a powerful super antioxidant that particularly helps with cardio-vascular and with general immune function as well.
‘It is also important for prostate health with lactolycopene, which a combination of lycopene and whey protein, showing promise in research.
‘Other areas that it may help include bone health and to reduce blood pressure.
HOW CAN TOMATOES HELP OUR HEARTS?
Interest in whether tomatoes can help our hearts began when researchers realised fewer people in countries that typically ate a Mediterranean-style diet based on lots of vegetables, fruits and beans suffered cardiovascular diseases such as strokes and heart attacks.
Scientists began looking for the reason why, particularly whether the small red fruit – tomatoes are classed as fruits because they have pips – was responsible.
While there’s still a lot more research to be done, studies undertaken so far indicate that tomatoes may indeed be able to help our hearts.
One study found people drinking tomato juice saw a reduction in their LDL cholesterol, the ‘bad’ cholesterol that raises your risk of heart attack or strokes.
Another discovered eating tomatoes could reduce your blood pressure in as little as eight weeks, again lowering the risk of a stroke.
And the fruit has also been shown to reduce some types of inflammation in our body, particularly in overweight and obese people.
Inflammation is associated with increased risk of heart disease, heart attacks and strokes.
Health expert Rick, author of The Anti-Ageing Food And Fitness Plan, says: ‘It can help to reduce the risk of heart disease and can help with the build-up of cholesterol in the arteries.
SO CAN TAKING THE ‘TOMATO PILL’ HELP?
Of course, it’s not always easy to eat tomatoes regularly to be assured of getting their benefits. So, could a daily supplement help?
Scientists at Cambridge University decided to find out. They gave 72 people, half with cardiovascular disease, half without, either an Ateronon supplement that contained lycopene or a placebo treatment. Neither the researchers nor the human guinea pigs knew what each person had been given to prevent any bias in the findings.
To determine if the supplement worked, researchers measured blood flow in the forearm because this can predict cardiovascular risk as narrowed blood vessels can lead to heart attack and stroke.
At the end of the two-month study, they found the tomato pill improved this blood flow significantly in the heart disease patients, while the placebo did not.
Lead researcher Dr Joseph Cheriyan said: ‘We’ve shown quite clearly that lycopene improves the function of blood vessels in cardiovascular disease patients.
‘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.’
*Please consult your doctor before taking any new supplements
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