by Mae Chan,

Adding to the accumulating evidence on the benefits of lycopene, a new study from Tufts and Boston University says increased intakes of the phytochemical are associated with a reduction in the incidence of cardiovascular disease and coronary heart disease.

Recent evidence just two ounces of tomato paste or a pint of juice a day could be enough to help many patients. has shown that just two ounces of tomato paste or a pint of juice a day could be enough to help many patients avoid dangerous statins the class of drugs commonly prescribed for these conditions which can lead to heart problems.

Previous research has shown that high levels of the compound lycopene which gives ripe tomatoes their bright red colour. This powerful anti-oxidant is essential for good health as it helps lower the risk of heart attacks and strokes.

According to Tufts and Boston University researchers, the highest average intakes of lycopene were linked to a 17 and 26% reduction in the incidence of cardiovascular disease and coronary heart disease, respectively, according to findings published in the British Journal of Nutrition.

Lycopene is an antioxidant that is present in red- and pink-colored fruits and vegetables. As well as being used as a food coloring, it is also used in supplements. The role of lycopene in heart health and in reducing the risk of certain cancers is supported by a body of research.

“The present study of lycopene and incident CVD adds to the accumulating evidence that lycopene is related to CVD risk,” wrote researchers led by Paul Jacques from the Jean Mayer US Department of Agriculture Human Nutrition Research Center on Aging at Tufts University.

“However, tomatoes and tomato-based products are by far the most important dietary sources of lycopene in observational studies, and most human lycopene trials are performed using tomato-based interventions.

“Thus, it is difficult to separate out the potential lycopene contribution to cardiovascular health from the overall contribution from tomato products and their other components.”

Study Details

The new study — an epidemiological analysis that indicates correlation and not causation — used data from the Framingham Offspring Study. Data was available for 314 people with CVD, 171 people with CHD, and 99 people with stroke. The average lycopene intake for the cohort was 7.9 milligrams per day.

After crunching the numbers, Jacques and his co-workers calculated that lycopene intake was inversely associated with a 17% reduction in CVD incidence and a 26% decrease in CHD incidence, but no association was observed for lycopene intake.

Other bioactives

Commenting on the other tomato compounds that may confer potential heart health benefits, Jacques and his co-workers noted that tomatoes also contain 9-oxo-10,12-octadecadienoic acid and its isomers, and natural salicylates, all of which have been reported to offer cardiovascular benefits.

The dietary levels of salicylates provided by tomato products, however, may not be sufficient to produce the heart benefits observed, they said.

“Additional research is needed to sort out the potential benefits of tomatoes and their phytochemical components on CVD risk.”

British Journal of Nutrition

Mae Chan holds degrees in both physiology and nutritional sciences. She is also blogger and and technology enthusiast with a passion for disseminating information about health.

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