Any health conscious reader knows that tomatoes are a valuable source of nutrients. Their unique mix includes beta-carotene, vitamins C and E, and lycopene, a potent antioxidant that gives the fruit its characteristic red color. A new study from Finland adds some interesting angles to what we already know about the benefits of eating tomatoes and tomato products. It seems that integrating tomato products such a sauce and juice into the everyday diet may cut LDL cholesterol levels by 13 per cent. Anyone taking drugs for this same effect should take note.
The study, performed with 21 healthy volunteers and published in the British Journal of Nutrition, shows that a high dietary intake of tomato products has a strong protective effect, by significantly reducing LDL cholesterol levels and adding increased LDL resistance to oxidation.
Dr. Marja-Leena Silaste from the University of Oulu, says that "these atheroprotective features are associated with changes in serum lycopene, beta-carotene and gamma-carotene levels."
In previous research,the link between lycopene and prostate cancer risk has been reported, but doubts have been raised about the benefits of the carotenoid after the FDA reported finding no credible evidence supporting lycopene intake and a reduced risk of prostate, lung, colorectal, gastric, breast, ovarian, endometrial, or pancreatic cancer. Still, the FDA has approved a claim on the role of tomatoes in reducing the risk of these cancers, indicating that the other compounds found in the whole fruit may be conferring benefits, possibly in synergy with lycopene. This lends credibility to the whole food approach, as opposed to taking lycopene alone in a supplement.
In this study, the volunteers had an initial three-week low tomato diet before a three-week high tomato diet. Subjects consumed 30 mg of tomato ketchup and 400 ml of tomato juice daily. At the end of the intervention period, the researchers report that total cholesterol levels were reduced by 5.9 per cent, while LDL levels were reduced by 12.9 per cent. Blood samples also revealed that lycopene, beta-carotene, and gamma-carotene levels were increased.