Posted on 11/10/2012

Latest Research Suggests Tomatoes Could Prevent Strokes

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According to BBC News, "tomatoes are ‘stroke preventers’".

The claim is based on a study carried out looking at the various levels of chemicals called carotenoids in men’s bloodstreams and their long-term risk of stroke.

A naturally occurring chemical, carotenoids give fruit and vegetables their colour and can act as an antioxidant. Thought to protect against cell damage from ‘free radicals’, antioxidants react with unstable molecules within the body bringing them under control, with some suggesting that antioxidants may be an effective prevention against stroke due to reducing the amount of damage to blood vessels.

During this study, researchers discovered that men with higher levels of lycopene, a known antioxidant, in their blood reduced their risk of stroke by 55% compared to those with lower levels. It is the chemical lycopene that gives tomatoes their distinctive red colouring.

However there has been an important limitation to the study. Although it tested 1,000 men, only 67 strokes actually occurred – a small sample size which can affect the reliability of any risk calculations made. In conclusion, this study cannot show that levels of lycopene present in the bloodstream were directly responsible for the decrease in stroke risk.

It is also unclear how lycopene actually prevents strokes, an area that will need further research and development in order to draw solid conclusions. The study does however support recommendations for balanced diets that are rich in fruit and vegetables. There is a large body of evidence supporting the notion that a healthy diet can reduce the risk of heart disease and some types of cancers – definitely worth taking note of.

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