Stroke Risk Lowered By Eating Tomatoes
October 9, 2012

Tomato Consumption May Help Lower Your Risk Of Stroke

April Flowers for - Your Universe Online

New research out of Finland suggests that eating tomatoes and tomato-based foods is associated with a lower risk of stroke.

Tomatoes are high in the antioxidant lycopene. The results, published in Neurology, found that people with the highest volume of lycopene in their blood were 55 percent less likely to have a stroke than those with the lowest amounts of lycopene.

At the beginning of the study the lycopene blood level was tested in 1,031 men in Finland between the ages of 46 and 65. The men were followed for 12 years during which time 67 of the men had strokes.

Among those with the lowest initial levels of lycopene, 25 out of 258 men had a stroke. Among those with the highest initial levels of lycopene, only 11 out of 259 had strokes. When the research team looked at only those strokes caused by blood clots, the results were even stronger. Men with the highest levels of lycopene at the beginning of the study were 59 percent less likely to have a stroke.

"This study adds to the evidence that a diet high in fruits and vegetables is associated with a lower risk of stroke," said Jouni Karppi, PhD, of the University of Eastern Finland in Kuopio. "The results support the recommendation that people get more than five servings of fruits and vegetables a day, which would likely lead to a major reduction in the number of strokes worldwide, according to previous research."

The study accounted for some major factors that can affect stroke risk, including smoking, high blood pressure and diabetes. Even with these factors taken into consideration, the high lycopene level group still had a 55 percent lower chance of stroke.

Lycopene is a potent antioxidant, which helps to protect the body's cells from damage that leads to disease. Laboratory research has suggested that lycopene helps with inflammation and blood clots as well, and better than other antioxidants.

In addition to lycopene, the researchers also looked at blood levels of the antioxidants alpha-carotene, beta-carotene, alpha-tocopherol and retinol. They found no correlation between the blood levels of these and the risk of stroke.

There are some questions about the study's findings, however, according to Reuters.

"Studies like this are interesting, but they have significant limitations," said Dr. Larry B. Goldstein, director of the Duke Stroke Center and a professor at Duke University Medical Center in Durham, North Carolina.

Goldstein states that there may be other factors, not looked at in this study, that could explain the lower risk levels. The current study lacked some critical information, including overall diet habits, which might explain why lycopene was linked to lower stroke risk.

Healthy eating is the key, asserted Goldstein, citing previous studies where researchers, and the public, have put too much stock in a single nutrient.

"These findings do reinforce the current recommendations for people to get a well-balanced diet, with fruits and vegetables," Goldstein told the news agency.

The best example of a diet, said Goldstein, is the DASH diet, recommended by experts for lowering blood pressure and protecting your heart. The DASH diet has been shown to lower cholesterol levels and blood pressure in clinical trials.

"If you want to eat tomatoes as part of that, that's fine," Goldstein said.