50 grams of tomato paste taken daily can provide protection against heart disease.
A University of Adelaide study has shown that tomatoes may be an effective alternative to medication in lowering cholesterol and blood pressure, thus preventing cardiovascular disease.
A paper published by Dr Karin Ried in the international journal Maturitas reveals clinical evidence that a bright red pigment called lycopene found in tomatoes and to a lesser extent in watermelon, guava, papaya, pink grapefruit and rosehip has antioxidant properties that are vital to good health.
Dr Ried and her colleague Dr Peter Fakler from the Discipline of General Practice are the first to summarise the effect of lycopene on cholesterol and blood pressure, analysing the collective results of 14 studies in the last 55 years.
“Our study suggests that if more than 25 milligrams of lycopene is taken daily, it can reduce LDL-cholesterol by up to 10 per cent,” Dr Ried says.
Tomatoes in particular have high levels of lycopene, with half a litre of tomato juice taken daily, or 50 grams of tomato paste, providing protection against heart disease.
“That’s comparable to the effect of low doses of medication commonly prescribed for people with slightly elevated cholesterol, but without the side effects of these drugs, which can include muscle pain and weakness and nerve damage.”
Dr Ried says lycopene is better absorbed in processed and cooked tomatoes or tomato paste rather than fresh tomatoes. As a supplement, lypocene is available in soft gelatine capsules or tablets.
“Research shows that high lycopene consumption has been associated with a decreased risk of cardiovascular disease, including hardened arteries, heart attacks and strokes.”
Dr Ried says more research is needed to explore whether doses higher than 25-44 milligrams of lypocene a day provide additional benefits.
The study was funded by the Australian Department of Health and Ageing.
Dr Ried and her colleagues have received international recognition for other clinical studies which show the benefits of both garlic and dark chocolate in helping to lower blood pressure.
Editor’s Note: Original news release can be found here.
- A Tomato a Day Keeps the Heart Doctor Away
- Tomatoes for Heart Health
- Evidence From Studies of Tomato and Lycopene
- A Tomato a Day Keeps the Doctor Away
- Are You Eating Too Many Tomatoes? 6 Tomato Side Effects You Must Know About!
- Here are some side effects of eating too many tomatoes:
- Tomato lycopene’s heart-health benefits: A deeper look
A Tomato a Day Keeps the Heart Doctor Away
Most people have heard the advice, “An apple a day keeps the doctor away.” This bit of advice is over a century old. The first version recorded was in the 1866 edition of Notes and Queries which states, “Eat an apple on going to bed, and you’ll keep the doctor from earning his bread.” In general, substituting a fiber-rich apple for high calorie foods, sweets, or processed products with high-fructose corn syrup is a great idea. Apples are also good sources of vitamin C, they clean our teeth, help with colon health, and they may help lower risk of dementia. However, even if you eat an apple daily, it is still a good idea to see your primary care doctor for regular check ups.
Tomatoes for Heart Health
I want to propose a new twist on the age-old advice. Rather than an apple, let’s use a tomato. Rather than a general doctor, let’s substitute a heart doctor. Maybe all along the advice should have been, “A tomato a day keeps the heart doctor away.”
You may be asking, why a tomato? Tomatoes are a very nutritional food source rich in anti-oxidants, vitamin A and C, folic acid and beta-carotene. They are also rich in a substance called lycopene. Lycopene is a bright red carotene that gives tomatoes their color. Lycopene can also be found in other fruits and vegetables such as watermelon or red carrots. In an average diet, tomatoes account for more than two-thirds of your lycopene consumption.
Evidence From Studies of Tomato and Lycopene
It may surprise you, but because of lycopene there are many studies that have tested the role of tomato consumption on heart health and heart disease risk factors. Here is a breakdown of what we know:
- Oxidized LDL. LDL is the bad part of our cholesterol. When it becomes “oxidized” due to a process called oxidative stress, oxidized LDL leads to cholesterol accumulation that forms plaques in the arteries of our bodies, in particular the coronary arteries. These plaques can rupture and cause a heart attack. In studies of healthy people, as well as those with type 2 diabetes, consumption of tomatoes or tomato products decreased levels of oxidized LDL.
- Body Inflammation. Markers of inflammation in our body have been shown to be associated with risk of heart disease, heart attack, stroke, and atrial fibrillation. Tomato consumption has been shown to reduce some of these markers of inflammation suggesting an improvement in inflammatory status particularly in overweight and obese people.
- Blood Pressure. In patients with pre-high blood pressure (prehypertension) or hypertension, tomato and tomato product consumption has a modest lowering effect on both systolic and diastolic blood pressure. This can be seen as early as 8 weeks after starting frequent consumption.
- Potential benefit after a heart attack. In two animal studies, rats were either treated with lycopene or a placebo for 30 days. After 30 days, a heart attack was caused in all the rats. Those rats treated with lycopene had a better blood pressure and less heart tissue/cell loss if they had received lycopene. These interesting findings need to be studied in humans to see if our bodies and hearts respond in a similar manner.
- Improved survival in patients with heart failure. In a study of 212 patients with heart failure, higher lycopene intake from tomatoes was associated with improved survival. In fact, patients with low lycopene intake were 3.3 times more likely to die compared to those with high lycopene intake.
- Reduced risk of stroke. In a study of 1,031 men from Finland, high lycopene consumption from tomatoes was associated with a significantly lower risk of stroke compared to men with a low consumption. In this study, stroke risk was reduced by 65 percent with high lycopene consumption.
Overall, these studies suggest that the tomato is a great healthy choice for our hearts and may as part of a healthy lifestyle reduce risk of heart disease. Some of these studies show the greatest benefit after early disease has developed, so it is never too late to make these lifestyle choices.
I am often asked if a supplement is as good as the food source. Or in other words, is a lycopene pill a good substitute for eating the tomato itself? Although there is evidence to support lycopene supplements for heart health, when all the evidence is examined eating a tomato is the better choice.
So, when planning your diet, remember a tomato a day just may keep the heart doctor away.
A Tomato a Day Keeps the Doctor Away
Apples are so last year: it’s now a tomato that will keep the doctor away—and in pill form, too. A study undertaken by scientists in the UK found that using the newly developed tomato pill improved the functioning of blood vessels, reinforcing the long-held theory that a Mediterranean-style diet is good for your health.
The capsule contains natural anti-oxidant lycopene, which is 10 times more potent than vitamin E and also responsible for giving tomatoes their red hue. Lycopene has long been thought of as a staunch protector against illnesses including tumors, heart disease, and cancer, and has now been proven—among the study’s 76 participants, at least—to strengthen blood vessels in the body.
Joseph Cheriyan, associate lecturer at the University of Cambridge and senior author of the study, explained, “As the most potent antioxidant known, there is biological plausibility and epidemiological data suggesting that lycopene intake may be at least partly responsible for variations in cardiovascular mortality across Europe.” Dr. Cheriyan’s research team used placebo pills to examine the effects of the tomato tablet, distributing the two amongst 36 people with heart issues and 36 healthy volunteers. It was undertaken as a double-blind study, meaning that neither the doctors nor their subjects knew who was receiving what treatment.
Fifty-three percent of the patients initially listed as having heart disease found that the widening of their blood vessels improved after taking the lycopene pill compared to those who had been using the placebo, adding weight to the theory that the red stuff is something of a natural medical marvel. Constriction of the blood vessels is one of the major causes of strokes and heart attacks, so the find is significant in developing successful treatments for an epidemic that is now responsible for 25 percent of deaths in the US. Dr. Cheriyan and his team believe that the pill’s success was due to the improved functioning of the endothelium—the inner wall cell lining of blood vessels.
The 7mg of the anti-oxidant contained in each capsule is equivalent to around 1kg of fresh tomatoes, but lycopene’s potency also appears to be enhanced when consumed either pureed, in the presence of olive oil, or in ketchup. The anti-oxidant can also be found in other fruits and vegetables including watermelons, apricots and pink grapefruits.
“Impaired endothelial function is a known predictor of increased risk of future heart disease,” said Professor Jeremy Pearson, associate medical director at the British Heart Foundation (which helped fund the research). “Further work is needed to understand whether the beneficial effects seen in this small study translate into clinical benefit for at-risk patients.”
But Dr. Cheriyan was positive about the study’s findings: “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.”
Indeed, while lycopene clearly offers many important health benefits, the tomato pill cannot be used as a replacement for other treatments, but can be highly beneficial when used in conjunction with other medication. It is hoped that the drug will eventually be a candidate for combatting heart disease, although “this would need much larger trials to investigate outcomes more carefully,” he said.
Are You Eating Too Many Tomatoes? 6 Tomato Side Effects You Must Know About!
The health benefits of tomatoes need no introduction. The plump red vegetable, which is also a fruit, is used in a number of cuisines around the world. Not just that, it is also used as a part of beauty treatments and tan removal during summers. Tomatoes are hailed for their potent antioxidant properties as well and are also believed to have protective powers against dangerous UV radiations from the sun. Tomatoes can add flavours to your food and also make your skin soft and supple. But did you know that even tomatoes have certain side effects that you just cannot ignore.
As is often repeated by our elders, “Too much of anything is bad”, tomatoes can have dangerous effects on your health when eaten in excess. From digestive troubles to diarrhoea, kidney problems and even body aches, excessive consumption of tomatoes can cause some serious harm to your body.
Also Read: Tomato Juice Benefits: From Improving Digestion To Boosting Eye Health And More!
Here are some side effects of eating too many tomatoes:
1. Acid Reflux: Tomatoes have malic acid and citric acid, which makes your stomach excessively acidic. Eating too many tomatoes can cause heart burn or acid reflux due to the production of excess gastric acid in the stomach. People who frequently suffer from digestive stress or have symptoms of GERD (gastroesophageal reflux disease) may want to go easy on tomatoes.
2. Allergies: Tomatoes contain a compound called histamine which may lead to skin rashes or allergies. For people allergic to tomatoes, consumption may lead to severe symptoms like swelling of mouth, tongue and face, sneezing, throat irritation, etc.
3. Kidney Stones: It may seem surprising but eating too many tomatoes may lead to building up of kidney stones in the body. This is because tomatoes are rich in calcium and oxalate, which when present in excess in the body, are not easily metabolised or removed from the body. These elements start depositing in the body, leading to formation of kidney stones.
Tomato Side Effects: Tomatoes have calcium and oxalate which can result in build up of kidney stones.
4. Joint Pain: Excessive consumption of tomatoes may result in swelling and pain in the joints. This is due to the presence of an alkaloid called solanine. This compound is responsible for building up calcium in the tissues, resulting in inflammation.
Also Read: 10 Best Tomato Recipes
5. Lycopenodermia: It is a condition where an excessive amount of lycopene in the blood of a person can result in discolouration of the skin. Lycopene is generally good for your body but when consumed in quantities higher than 75 mg per day, it can lead to lycopenodermia.
6. Diarrhoea: Your tomatoes maybe carrying the bacterium salmonella, which is responsible for diarrhoea. However, otherwise in people who don’t have tomato intolerance, diarrhoea is pretty rare.
Also Read: 5 Tomato Face Packs That Are Bound To Make Your Skin Soft And Supple!
A lot of people take lycopene supplements which are easily available all around the globe. However, these may result in health complications, as it has been proven by some studies. As far as the question of the appropriate number of tomatoes you can eat daily is concerned, you must consult an expert nutritionist for the answer. It’s also crucial to find out whether or not you are intolerant to tomatoes or lycopene in general, as well.
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American Dental Association: “Nutrition: What You Eat Affects Your Teeth.”
American Journal of Affective Disorders: “A tomato-rich diet is related to depressive symptoms among an elderly population aged 70 years and over: A population-based, cross-sectional analysis.”
American Journal of Physiology – Lung Cellular and Molecular Physiology: “Tomato juice prevents senescence-accelerated mouse P1 strain from developing emphysema induced by chronic exposure to tobacco smoke.”
Fruits & Veggies–More Matters: “Tomato: Nutrition, Selection, Storage.”
American Journal of Physiology: “Tomato juice prevents senescence-accelerated mouse P1 strain from developing emphysema induced by chronic exposure to tobacco smoke.”
Caries Research: “Brushing abrasion of softened and remineralised dentin: an in situ study.”
Free Radical Research: “Lycopene-rich treatments modify noneosinophilic airway inflammation in asthma: proof of concept.”
Harvard Health Publishing: “Lycopene-rich tomatoes linked to lower stroke risk.”
JAMA Ophthalmology: “Intakes of Lutein, Zeaxanthin, and Other Carotenoids and Age-Related Macular Degeneration During 2 Decades of Prospective Follow-up.”
Mayo Clinic: “When and how often should you brush your teeth?” “Emphysema.”
Journal of Contemporary Dental Practice: “Effect of lycopene in the treatment of periodontal disease: a clinical study.”
Mediators of Inflammation: “Enhancing the Health-Promoting Effects of Tomato Fruit for Biofortified Food.”
National Foundation for Cancer Research: “Tasty Tomatoes: Anti-Cancer Attributes & A Healthy Recipe.”
National Stroke Association: “Signs and Symptoms of Stroke.”
Neurology: “Serum lycopene decreases the risk of stroke in men.”
Nutritional Neuroscience: “Serum concentrations of antioxidant vitamins and carotenoids are low in individuals with a history of attempted suicide.”
United States Department of Agriculture Agricultural Research Service.
What’s Cooking? USDA Mixing Bowl: “Roasted Tomatoes with Herbs,” “Easy Marinara Sauce.”
Tomato lycopene’s heart-health benefits: A deeper look
There is no doubt that cardiovascular health can and should be improved by adjusting daily nutrition and through conscious use of the right dietary ingredients.
Research published this year shows that as of 2016, 9% of people over the age of 20 in the United States had suffered coronary heart disease, heart failure, or a stroke.1 With hypertension also factored in, 48% of U.S. adults—or 121.5 million people—had suffered some form of cardiovascular disease (CVD) as of the same year.
Smart prevention is essential. A growing body of research indicates that the possible benefits of carotenoids—the phytonutrients that give fruits, vegetables, and other organisms their vibrant hues—may be a good starting point. Carotenoids have antioxidation and anti-inflammatory qualities, which studies suggest could improve cardiovascular wellness and, as a natural result, support primary and secondary CVD prevention.2 As carotenoids cannot be produced by the human body, dietary incorporation or supplementation is a necessity.
In recent years, a significant amount of attention has been paid to lycopene, the carotenoid that gives tomatoes their red color. Lycopene has the highest antioxidant power among all carotenoids and is associated with several positive effects on cardiovascular health as well as additional essential wellness parameters.3
A recent review of the literature on lycopene’s effectiveness made a strong case for its potential benefits, with 15 out of the 23 epidemiological studies examined finding that lycopene does reduce CVD risk.4
In addition, a prior study, the EURAMIC study, which was based on data from 10 European countries, assessed the effects of antioxidants such as lycopene, alpha-tocopherol, and beta-carotene on heart attacks. Adipose tissue needle aspiration biopsies were taken from people shortly after they recovered from myocardial infarction and were analyzed for levels of phytonutrients. The study found that lycopene had the greatest cardioprotective effect.5
Previous tomato nutrient complex studies sponsored by my company, lycopene ingredients supplier Lycored (Be’er Sheva, Israel), provide further support for the advantages of natural lycopene supplementation. In a randomized, double-blind, placebo-controlled study funded by Lycored on its lycopene extract, 146 healthy, normal-weight individuals were given a daily dose of either the tomato nutrient complex or a placebo over a two-week period. The tomato nutrient complex was found to increase carotenoid levels in plasma as well as reduce levels of LDL cholesterol.6
In a further Lycored-sponsored study, 126 healthy men were randomized to receive either a placebo or lycopene (either 6 mg or 15 mg) daily for eight weeks. Compared to placebo, an increase in serum lycopene after supplementation with 15 mg lycopene was found to reduce oxidative stress, which may play a role in endothelial function.7 Endothelial dysfunction is associated with most forms of CVD.8
The Synergistic Benefits of Natural Tomato Nutrients
One should note that there is, however, an important distinction to be made between synthetic lycopene and natural lycopene from tomatoes. While scientists have advised that tomato lycopene should be consumed daily as a result of its pharmacological actions and associated health benefits9, Lycored believes there is no similar evidence to show that synthetic lycopene can deliver the same advantages for the advancement of wellness and prevention of unwanted physical conditions.
Lycored’s own clinical research supports the notion that tomato lycopene is particularly effective in cutting CVD risk when it works in synergy with the other phytonutrients found naturally in the tomato. These phytonutrients include a range of carotenoids as well as phytosterols. Phytosterols themselves have been shown to favorably alter whole-body cholesterol metabolism.10
In 2003, an independent study found that women consuming greater amounts of tomato-based products per week had a lower multivariate risk of total CVD, important vascular events, and myocardial infarction, with the tomato products producing much stronger results than dietary lycopene alone.11
Lycored recently sponsored a double-blind, randomized study on blood pressure that looked at the effect of a tomato nutrient complex from Lycored containing lycopene, phytoene, phytofluene, beta-carotene, vitamin E, and other fat-soluble phytonutrients naturally present in tomatoes, suspended in tomato oleoresin oil.12 Sixty-one volunteers aged 35-60 with systolic blood pressure between 130-140 mmHg took part. They were given capsules either containing 1) the tomato nutrient complex standardized for 5, 15, or 30 mg of lycopene, 2) 15 mg of synthetic lycopene, or 3) placebo, and were instructed to take the supplements with their main meal. Daily treatment with the tomato nutrient complex containing 15 or 30 mg of lycopene was associated with statistically significant reductions in systolic blood pressure. However, similar effects were not observed for any of the other treatments. A possible explanation for the results is a role for the other phytonutrients in the tomato. This would explain the lower effectiveness of pure, synthetic lycopene, which does not contain any other tomato component.
That explanation is supported by the results of a previous study the authors carried out looking at additional physical parameters, studying the effects of lycopene and other phytonutrients present in tomato extract. That research also found that the benefits resided in the combined effects of the phytonutrients, which are synergistically higher than the activity of each compound alone.13
In 2013, an exploratory systematic review and meta-analysis of randomized controlled trials looked at the effect of lycopene supplementation on oxidative stress. The review found that lycopene may alleviate oxidative stress but concluded that, on the evidence available, the consumption of natural, carotenoid-rich fruits and vegetables is preferable to purified lycopene.14
Of course, cardiovascular health is not simply the result of quick fixes and minor lifestyle changes. Achieving cardiovascular wellness requires that we become aware of all aspects of wellness—mental, emotional, and physical—as a part of a healthy lifestyle. It is only by addressing all three pillars that true wellbeing can be obtained.
Golan Raz is head of Lycored’s Global Health Division (Be’er Sheva, Israel).