Cooked tomatoes fight bad cholesterol similar to low dose statins
Getting cholesterol lower isn’t easy, but new research shows cooked tomatoes can lower LDL, ‘bad cholesterol’ by ten percent, fending off heart disease.
University of Adelaide scientists found lycopene, the antioxidant responsible for the bright color of tomatoes, can drop levels of low density lipoprotein cholesterol as effectively as low dose statin drugs, for those with slightly elevated cholesterol levels.
The finding comes from a review of 14 studies, conducted over the last 55 years, conducted by Dr Karin Ried and Dr Peter Fakler from the Discipline of General Practice.
Cooked tomatoes and tomato paste good for the heart
In the study, the average effect on lowering so called bad LDL cholesterol that leads to plaque formation in the arteries was 10 percent.
Dr. Ried explained more than 25 mg of the antioxidant a day is needed to help prevent heart disease – the equivalent of half a liter of tomato juice, or 50 grams of tomato paste.
Lycopene supplements are also available, but there has been ongoing debate by researchers about absorption of supplements versus natural food sources for promoting health and well-being.
Lycopene is found in high levels in tomatoes, but is also found in watermelon, guava, papaya, pink grapefruit and rosehip in lower quantities.
Dr. Ried explains, cooked tomatoes are better absorbed than fresh, increasing the anti-cholesterol effect.
Lycopene in tomatoes curbs cholesterol comparable to low dose drugs
Eating cooked tomatoes or tomato paste can lower LDL “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."
The antioxidants in lycopene containing fruits and vegetables can help reduce inflammation and keep arteries healthy. Ried says high intake of lycopene is shown to prevent atherosclerosis, or hardening of the arteries, stroke and heart attack.
The authors say more studies are needed to determine if lycopene doses higher than 25 mg have any added benefit for lowering cholesterol and preventing heart disease.
The results come from a first review of past studies showing lycopene in tomatoes can fight heart disease, stroke and keep cholesterol levels lower. The effect of cooked tomatoes on ‘bad’ LDL cholesterol is thought to be the result of fatty acid oxidation and regulation of cholesterol metabolism in the liver.
Image credit: Morguefile