Cooked tomatoes help battle cholesterol23rd May 2011
Cooked tomatoes, commonly found in pizza toppings and pasta sauce, could have a protective effect against the wrong kind of cholesterol, a study has found.
A team of researchers in Australia said that the tomatoes, found in many people's kitchen cupboards, could be as good as statins in combating high levels of cholesterol in the blood, and also high blood pressure.
Statins are currently prescribed for high cholesterol and high blood pressure in an attempt to alleviate problems which can later lead to heart disease.The researchers, led by Karen Ried of the University of Adelaide, said the protective benefits could be had from just two ounces of concentrated tomato paste a day, or a pint of tomato juice.
Tomatoes get their protective properties from a compound called lycopene, which is responsible for the bright red colour of tomatoes.
Lycopene is a powerful antioxidant, which helps to lower the risk of stroke and heart attacks.
It is more readily absorbed from cooked tomatoes than from raw ones.
The team reached its conclusions after analysing the results of 14 studies into the benefits of lycopene from around the world over the past half century.
They said the effects of the prescribed amount of cooked tomato could provide the equivalent effect to smaller doses of statins.
More than 2.5 million people take statins in the United Kingdom alone, where cardiovascular disease is the number one killer.
Writing in the journal Maturitas, Reid said tomatoes have very high levels of lycopene, and that 50 grammes of tomato paste a day would help protect people against heart disease.
Tomato paste in particular was a good way of absorbing enough lycopene to make a difference, said Reid, adding that eating one tomato a day would not yield enough of the antioxidant.
People who eat 25 milligrams of lycopene daily can reduce their “bad” cholesterol by up to 10%, she concluded. They would also avoid the muscle pain, weakness and nerve damage associated with statins for some patients.
Lower concentrations of lycopene are also found in watermelon, guava, papaya, pink grapefruit, apricots and rosehip.
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