It's all in the tomato

Eating tomatoes may keep heart problems away

Published: Monday 15 December 1997

 Tomato is good for the heart< tomato consumption may reduce the risk of developing heart disease. A recent study reveals that people who consume lycopene -- a substance that makes tomato red -- are half as likely to have heart attacks as those who consume the least. Lenore Kohlmeier, a professor of epidemiology and nutrition at the University of North Carolina, Chapel Hill, usa , and her colleagues from several European medical centres have reached the conclusion after studying 1,379 people in the Europe.

The study has its own significance because the researchers assessed lycopene consumption and absorption by measuring its presence in body fat rather than using a less reliable method of asking men how much lycopene-rich food they regularly consumed. As lycopene is fat soluble, dietary fat is required for it to be absorbed through the intestine. The substance prevents free radicals from damaging cells, molecules and genes as they circulate in the blood. Free radicals are highly reactive molecules that combine with other substances and change them in harmful way.

Such damages help circulate cholesterol into a form that sticks to arteries and clogs them, leading to heart attack. Free radical damage is sometimes also involved in lung disease caused by inhaling pollutants such as ozone and cataracts caused by exposure to sunlight.

Tomatoes have rich quantity of lycopene that can only be absorbed well in the body when tomatoes are cooked. So the substance can be found prominently in tomato paste, ketchup and tomato sauce. According to Kohlmeier, one gets five times more lycopene from tomato sauce as against the equivalent amount of fresh tomatoes.

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