When it comes down to giving advice and suggesting preventatives and treatments for heart disease and weight-related issues, the standard answers usually include cutting down on foods that are high in cholesterol, lowering your salt and saturated fat intake, eating more balanced meals and fresh produce and cutting down on alcohol or giving up the smoking of cigarettes. However, research suggests that tomatoes in particular may be a major player in the prevention and treatment of people with heart disease.
What’s in the tomatoes?
As with all other fruits and vegetables, tomatoes contain a vast array of essential vitamins, minerals and nutrients that should be eaten regularly as part of a balanced diet. However, a particular component of this food substance is the chemical known as lycopene. Lycopene is a form of the nutrient carotene and gives tomatoes their distinctive, blushing red vibrancy. Tomatoes contain very high levels of this carotene and various research studies have proven that it can have multiple effects that are beneficial to maintaining a healthy heart.
What is the Evidence that Lycopene Aids Heart Health?
1. Benefits following a heart attack – In numerous studies conducted on rodents, following the induction of an artificial heart attack, the animals that had been fed a higher dose of lycopene extracted from tomatoes had a healthier heart rate and healthier blood pressure. The rats who had been given the lycopene also suffered less tissue and cell loss within the heart, showing that the substance has a strengthening effect on the heart tissue.
2. Reduces Inflammation – Body inflammation can often be linked to heart attacks, heart disease and strokes. The consumption of lycopene in the diet has been linked to reducing the effects of inflammation and therefore reducing the pain or discomfort experienced by the patients. Here the lycopene acts as a natural anti-inflammatory substance and could be used for those who suffer weight-related health conditions, such as obesity.
3. Lowers Stroke Risk – Studies conducted in humans with varying levels of lycopene in their bodies have repeatedly found that those with a higher lycopene intake are less likely to suffer from a heart attack or stroke when compared to those who have little or no intake of the substance.
4. Reducing The Accumulation of Low Density Lipoproteins (LDLs) – LDLs make up the bad forms of the cholesterol in our diets, they are the culprits behind plaque build-up, blood clotting and the blockages of arteries. Studies have proven that lycopene acts against the build-up of LDLs in the blood vessels and instead encourages the breakdown of these substances. This can reduce high blood pressure and heart disease occurring and increase the overall health and mechanism of the circulatory system.
5. Thinning Blood that is too viscous - Lycopene also acts as a blood thinner and can reduce the viscosity (thickness) of blood in those who smoke or have clotted blood vessels. This can ease the circulation of blood and prevent further blockages from occurring within the heart and surrounding tissues.