The humble tomato is more than a delicious fruit. A new study says that eating it daily could help lower cholesterol and blood pressure levels, thus keeping heart disease at bay.
An international team, led by University of Adelaide, has claimed that a bright red pigment called lycopene found in tomatoes contains antioxidant properties vital to good health, the Maturitas journal reported.
Researchers came to the conclusion by summarising 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 Karin Ried, who led the team, said.
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, say the researchers.
"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 said. According to the researchers, lycopene is better absorbed in processed and cooked tomatoes or tomato paste rather than fresh tomatoes.
"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 said. He, however, added that more study is needed to explore whether doses higher than 25 to 44 milligrammes of lypocene a day provide additional benefits.