Can taking a pill made from TOMATOES really help your heart health?
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A key component in tomatoes is a carotenoids called lycopene
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.
PACKED WITH GOODNESS
Despite their small size, tomatoes pack a real vitamin and mineral punch.
They contain potassium, which is associated with lower rates of stroke and possibly heart disease, and Vitamin K, which is necessary for blood clotting and wound healing.
And the carotenoids in tomatoes – which give the fruit its glorious red (or sometimes yellow or orange) colour – are also vital for keeping our bodies in tip-top condition.
They’re important for eye health, could protect against problems such as age-related macular degeneration, and they may also help guard us against skin cancer.
That’s because studies have shown carotenoids may HELP prevent UV damage to our skins – and it’s this type of sunlight that causes the disease.
LYCOPENE, THE WONDER INGREDIENT
Despite their small size, tomatoes pack a real vitamin and mineral punch
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.
‘THE CHILDREN WILL HAVE TO WAIT FOR THEIR INHERITANCE!’
When Colin Grundon read a newspaper article about the benefits of the ‘tomato pill’ five years ago, he was immediately interested.
Having undergone a triple heart bypass in 1990, and being on statins to control his cholesterol and blood pressure levels, he wondered if the supplement could help.
After speaking to his doctor, who confirmed Ateronon Heart + could be taken with his medication, Colin began taking a tablet every day.
Now 76, he says: ‘I’d never taken a supplement before but having research conducted at such a well-known institution gave me real confidence.
‘I tried it and felt a definite improvement. I’ve got a lot more energy, my mind is brighter. I don’t feel old, I feel 20 or 30 years younger than I am.’
His doctor even commented on the improvement when he needed angioplasty for angina a few years ago.
‘The consultant said how soft and clear my arteries were,’ says Colin, a semi-retired marine engineer, ‘and it all points to using the tomato pill.’
In fact Colin, from Herne Bay, Kent, is so convinced by the benefits of his daily supplement that many of his family now take it.
‘My wife Joanne is on it and she had a heart scan last year and the doctor told “I’ve never seen a heart report like it” because it was normal right across the board.
‘When my son-in-law started getting chest pains after eating, I put him on it too and he’s had no problems since.
‘Thirty years after a triple bypass, I’m still here. I’m so glad I found the “tomato pill”. The children will just have to wait for their inheritance!’
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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