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New Tomato Pill Could Prevent Heart Disease

June 1, 2009

Experts suggest that a natural supplement made from tomatoes could stave off heart disease and strokes if taken daily, BBC News reported.

An active ingredient contained in the tomato pill lycopene, from the Mediterranean diet, blocks “bad” LDL cholesterol that can clog the arteries.

The pill, manufactured by a biotechnology spin-out company of Cambridge University, is being launched as a dietary supplement and will be sold under the name Ateronon.

However, more trials are needed to see how effective the treatment is, according to experts.

So far, some 150 people with heart disease have been a part of preliminary trials indicating that Ateronon can reduce the oxidation of harmful fats in the blood to almost zero within eight weeks.

The supplement could be much more effective than statin drugs that are currently used by doctors to treat high cholesterol, according to neuroscientist Peter Kirkpatrick, who will lead a further research project at Addenbrooke’s Hospital in Cambridge on behalf of Cambridge Theranostics Ltd.

“As always, we caution people to wait for any new drug or modified ‘natural’ product to be clinically proven to offer benefits before taking it,” said Professor Peter Weissberg of the British Heart Foundation.

He warned that it would take more time and several clinical trials to provide such evidence for Ateronon.

He stated that the BHF will continue to advise heart disease patients or those at high risk to rely on proven medications prescribed by their doctor, and aim to get the benefits of a Mediterranean diet by eating plenty of fresh fruit and vegetables.

Some of the basic science at Cambridge University underpinning the development of the product had received support from the foundation.

“The new lycopene product Ateronon represents an entirely new approach to the treatment of high blood cholesterol and opens up the exciting possibility,” said Professor Anthony Leeds, trustee of the cholesterol charity Heart UK.

Tomatoes get their red color from lycopene, an antioxidant contained in its skin. However, lycopene ingested in its natural form is poorly absorbed.

Nestle originally developed a more readily absorbed version of lycopene that is used in Ateronon.

“We know that diets rich in antioxidants are beneficial in reducing the plaque build up and welcome the findings of this research,” said Dr. Peter Coleman of The Stroke Association.

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