Healthy living

Can tomatoes protect against heart disease?

Zone default image Volunteers needed for study

Scientists based at the University of Aberdeen want to test whether tomatoes are important in preventing heart disease, and need volunteers to help them.

It has long been known that countries in the Mediterranean, where tomatoes are a staple of the diet, have significantly lower rates of heart disease than Western Europe.

Recent studies have shown that tomato-based food and the natural red pigment lycopene, found in products like ketchup, tomato juice and tomato paste, may contribute to this phenomena.

It is thought that they have a beneficial effect on the heart, helping to protect against cardiovascular disease (CVD), such as a stroke or heart disease.

However, these findings have not yet been validated by comprehensive dietary trials.

It is thought that tomato-based products, lycopene, or both may reduce the amount of cholesterol, sugar and other chemicals in the blood which may be responsible for the development of cardiovascular disease.

But what is not known, is whether it is the lycopene alone or the whole tomato product which is responsible for the beneficial effect.

To test this, a team at the University’s School of Medicine and the Rowett Institute of Nutrition and Health, are going to look at the impact of three different diets providing varying portions of tomato-based products, such as tomato sauce, Bolognese sauce and soup.

They will then study the effects on levels of cholesterol, sugar and other chemicals in the blood which are associated with an increased risk of heart disease.

The study has been funded by the Food Standard Agency and, if the results support the theory about the beneficial effects of tomatoes, could be used to define dietary advice to the British population.

Dr Frank Thies, who will lead the study, said: “Cardiovascular disease is one of the main causes of mortality in Scotland.

“There is plenty of evidence which suggests that in parts of the Mediterranean, where tomatoes form a key part of the diet, the incidence of heart disease is much lower.

“Studies have shown that there is a potential link to tomatoes, lycopene or both but a comprehensive dietary trial is needed to progress our understanding.

“If there is a positive beneficial effect, we also need to establish whether it is the tomato as a whole or just the lycopene which is responsible.”

For the study, volunteers are sought between the ages or 40 and 65-years-old in good general health.

Participation would require a slight change to normal diet over a period of 16 weeks.

If you are interested, contact Mrs Amelia Rudd on 01224 550782 or a.e.rudd@abdn.ac.uk.

This article was published on Tue 10 November 2009



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