Eating Tomatoes May Cut Risk of Stroke, New Study Finds

By Amy Taylor on October 18, 2012

Their appealing colour and tangy taste is what makes tomatoes the all-time favourite ingredient and pasta sauce of many people, young or old. Children love spaghetti and adults prefer grilled or fresh tomatoes drizzled with olive oil. In whatever form you like, eating tomatoes is good for your heart too, particularly in preventing stroke, a new study suggests.

The study, published in the journal of the American Academy of Neurology, found that people who had high levels of lycopene in their blood are 55% less likely to suffer from stroke as compared to those who have low levels of lycopene.

Researchers from the University of Eastern Finland looked at the lycopene content in the blood and the risk of stroke of 1,031 men ages 46-65. The subjects were followed for 12 years. During such period, 67 of them had a stroke. And among the participants who had lowest levels of lycopene, 25 out of 258 had a stroke while only 11 of those with the highest lycopene levels had. When the researchers looked at the cases of stroke due to blood clots, they found that men who had high lycopene contents in their blood are 59% less likely to have a stroke.

The researchers also looked at the blood levels of some other antioxidants including alpha-tocopherol, retinol and beta-carotene but found no association with the risk of stroke.

What is lycopene?

Lycopene is a bright-red carotene and a phytochemical that is commonly found in red fruits and vegetables such as tomato, red bell pepper, watermelon, papaya, and carrot. However, 85% of this nutrient can be obtained from tomatoes. Plenty of studies have been made to identify the health benefits of consuming lycopene and it was found that lycopene helps remove free radicals from the body and reduce bad cholesterol levels. It has also been shown to lower the risk of breast, prostate and stomach cancer, as well as age-related muscular degeneration. Tomatoes are good for the skin too. There’s no wonder why many beauty products contain tomato extracts.

How do you get the best out of tomatoes?

Not all tomatoes are the same. Lycopene is what gives tomatoes their reddish colour so choose the red, ripe ones over the pale, watery tomatoes to get the most out of its health benefits. According to Gerry Hayman of the British Tomato Growers’ Association, low-ripening, imported types of tomatoes usually have lower levels of lycopene.

Experts say that cooked or heat-processed tomatoes contain the highest levels of lycopene because heat stimulates the release of the antioxidant. And since it’s fat-soluble, make sure to cook it with oil. For a healthier dish, use olive oil. However, cooking causes the depletion of vitamin C from the fruit, that’s why the British Tomato Growers’ Association recommends eating a range of fresh and cooked tomatoes.


Sources of this article:

Can Eating Tomatoes Lower the Risk of Stroke? American Academy of Neurology

The health benefits of tomatoes


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