The Benefits of Tomatoes
Who doesn't love tomatoes? Yet there are reasons to love them more. Tomatoes are considered to be a healthy type of food partly because of its deep red color. Its deep red color is due to lycopene, a carotenoid pigment that can easily be absorbed by the body and can bring about numerous health benefits. Lycopene is said to reverse oxidative stress in the body and to strengthen bones. Without lycopene containing foods, we are prone to have diseases such as osteoporosis.
Tomatoes have long been linked to good heart health. Studies have shown that consumption of tomatoes can help lower total cholesterol, LDL cholesterol, and triglycerides. Tomato extracts can also help prevent the clumping of platelets in the blood which can further lower the risk for heart disease and atherosclerosis. Aside from lycopene, other phytonutrients in tomatoes which are responsible for its health benefits are esculeoside A, chalconaringenin and 9-oxo-octadecadienoic acid. Tomatoes are rich with these phytonutrients which also serve as antioxidants. They contain vitamin C, beta-carotene, manganese, vitamin E and flavones, flavonols, hydroxycinnamic acids, carotenoids, glycosides and fatty acid derivatives. Flavonones in tomatoes include naringenin and chalconaringenin while flavonols include rutin, kaempferol and quercetin. Hydroxycinnamic acids include caffeic acid, ferulic acid and coumaric acid while carotenoids include lycopene, lutein, zeaxanthin and beta-carotene. Glycosides include esculeoside A while fatty acid derivatives include 9-oxo-octadecadienoic acid. These nutrients are considered antioxidants which protect cells by reducing lipid peroxidation or oxygen damage to fats in cell membranes or in the bloodstream.
Tomatoes can bring about reduced risk for heart disease through two ways: antioxidant support and regulation of fats in the bloodstream. Lycopene in tomatoes have the ability to help lower the risk of lipid peroxidation in the bloodstream. Lipid peroxidation is a process in which fats that are located in the membranes of cells lining the bloodstream, or fats that are being carried around in the blood, get damaged by oxygen. This damage can be repaired if it is kept at manageable levels. However, if too much damage has been done, the body's immune and inflammatory systems may react and this would lead to atherosclerosis and a multitude of other problems.
Consumption of tomatoes can also help regulate fats in the blood and can improve fats profile in our bloodstream. Tomatoes can decrease total cholesterol, decrease LDL cholesterol and decrease triglyceride levels. It’s also been shown to decrease accumulation of cholesterol molecules inside of macrophage cells. The accumulation of cholesterol by macrophages which are a type of white blood cells that respond to stress is a prerequisite for development of atherosclerosis.
Consuming tomatoes can also benefit bone health. It is said that antioxidants such as lycopene can help protect bone tissue from damage and can thus help prevent osteoporosis. Tomatoes also have anti-cancer benefits by battling chronic oxidative stress and chronic unwanted inflammation. It may be helpful in cancers such as those found in the prostate, lung, pancreas and breast. Tomatoes can also protect against Alzheimer's disease and can help fight obesity.
Lycopene Can Benefit People with Cardiovascular Disease
A recent study shows that consuming lycopene daily may improve the function of blood vessels in patients with cardiovascular disease. This study, done by researchers from the University of Cambridge Cambridge University Hospitals National Health Service Foundation Trust is published in the journal PLOS One. This study is a randomised, double blind, placebo controlled, interventional trial investigating the effects of lycopene a gold standard method of measuring the function of blood vessels called forearm blood flow, which is predictive of future cardiovascular risk. Thirty-six cardiovascular disease patients and thirty-six healthy volunteers were given either Ateronon (an off-the-shelf supplement containing 7mg of lycopene) or a placebo treatment. As a double blind trial, neither the study participants nor the researchers dispensing the pills were aware which treatment was being provided. The researchers found that 7mg of oral lycopene supplementation improved and normalised endothelial function in the patients, but not in healthy volunteers. Lycopene improved the widening of the blood vessels by over a half (53%) compared to baseline. However they observed that, the supplement had no effect on blood pressure, arterial stiffness or levels of lipids.
More medical breakthroughs are discussed in our other articles on this site.