A tomato pill may help improve heart health

Harold Mandel's picture
Delicious, nutritious tomatoes

There has been a great deal of interest in the positive health value of tomatoes. Most of the interest has centered around the apparent association between eating tomatoes and a decreased incidence of various types of cancer. It is believed a substance called lycopene in tomatoes is responsible for this beneficial health effect. New research has found this substance also promotes the health of your blood vessels which is good for your cardiovascular health.

Although it is well known that a Mediterranean diet decreases cardiovascular disease (CVD) risk the mechanisms of how this works have been poorly understood reported PLOS One. These diets contain the powerful antioxidant lycopene with evidence which suggests this substance has beneficial health effects. Researchers investigated the effects of lycopene on the vasculature in CVD patients and in healthy volunteers.

Lycopene improves endothelial function in CVD patients

It was concluded that lycopene improves endothelial function in cardiovascular disease (CVD) patients who had impaired function at baseline. This positive effect was seen in spite of optimal secondary prevention medication. This same effect was not seen in age-matched healthy volunteers. This research reinforces the need for a healthy diet to augment endothelial function in patients who are at-risk despite good medical therapies.

Essentially it has been found that a tomato pill improves the function of blood vessels reports the University of Cambridge in a review of this research. According to new research from the University of Cambridge a daily supplement of an extract which is found in tomatoes may improve the function of blood vessels in patients suffering from cardiovascular disease.

Incidence of cardiovascular disease is lower with Mediterranean diet


The incidence of cardiovascular disease is notably less in southern Europe, where a Mediterranean diet which consists of larger consumption of fruit, vegetables and olive oil is common. It has been suggested by recent studies this diet lowers the incidence of events related to cardiovascular disease, including heart attack and stroke. The positive effect also seems to occur in patients at high cardiovascular risk and in patients who have previously had the disease.

Lycopene is a component of the Mediterranean diet which is thought to play a vital role in decreasing the risk of cardiovascular disease. Lycopene a very powerful antioxidant which has ten times the potency of vitamin E. Lycopene is present in tomatoes and other fruits. The potency of lycopene appears to be enhanced when it is eaten pureed, in ketchup or with olive oil.

Lycopene plays a role in decreasing cardiovascular risk

Epidemiological evidence has been strong in support of the role of lycopene in decreasing cardiovascular risk. However, the mechanism by which it does this has not been clear. Researchers at the University of Cambridge and the Cambridge University Hospitals National Health Service Foundation Trust have demonstrated one key mechanism by which they think lycopene reduces cardiovascular risk. Dr Joseph Cheriyan said so far it's been a mystery what the underlying mechanisms could be for the positive effects of lycopene on cardiovascular health.

The researchers discovered that 7mg of oral lycopene supplementation improved and normalized endothelial function in the patients, but not in healthy volunteers. Endothelial function predicts future cardiovascular events. Therefore having a healthy endothelium is a vital factor in preventing the development of heart disease. The researchers found lycopene improved the responses of blood vessels to acetylcholine. Acetylcholine stimulates the release of an important hormone which is called nitric oxide which is a blood vessel dilator. Constriction of the blood vessels is one of the primary factors which can lead to heart attack and stroke.

A healthy diet is important for people at risk for cardiovascular disease

Dr Cheriyan has said it has been shown by this research that lycopene clearly improves the function of blood vessels in cardiovascular disease patients. This finding reinforces the need for a healthy diet in people who are at risk from heart disease and stroke. It is felt by the researchers that a daily tomato pill may provide added benefits when taken along with other medication.

The findings from this study add credibility to reports that a healthy diet is associated with less cardiovascular disease risk. Skeptics should now be more accepting of suggestions that a Mediterranean diet which includes tomatoes is good for their health. There are other benefits to eating well aside from decreased risk of cardiovascular disease such as weight control and decreased risk of diabetes. Therefore it is always advisable to eat nutritious meals and adding tomatoes to your meals may very well help you maintain and achieve better health. Lycopene supplements may also often prove to be beneficial.



I guess a pill - but I like the idea of eating delicious medicine in food form. :)