Whether you say tomato, tom-ah-tay or to-mah-to, make sure you are eating them. A regular daily intake can lower blood pressure, according to a study reported in the American Heart Journal. Researchers gave a small amount of a natural tomato extract (equal to about 4 tomatoes) every day to a group of 31 men and women (ages 30 to 70) with mild hypertension and found that their blood pressure dropped an average of 5 to 10 points after 8 weeks. Researchers attribute the reduction to the strong antioxidant activity of the tomato extract and an increase in nitric oxide, which relaxes blood vessels, explains study author Dr. Esther Paran.
The Science: Hypertension is considered the most common risk factor for cardio and cerebrovascular target organ damage and renal disease. Normalization of blood pressure with antihypertensive therapy has beneficial effect; stroke incidence reduced by 40 to 50 percent, MI by 20 percent and congestive heart failure by more than 50 percent.
Lifestyle modification by dietary changes can reduce BP (blood pressure). Therefore according to guidelines, all patients should undergo appropriate lifestyle modification as the first step of their treatment. Dietary supplementation of fruits and vegetables has been linked to a rise in plasma vitamin antioxidant levels and to reduction in blood pressure values.
In the NHANES III study, a one-SD higher level in β-carotene was associated with an 11% lower risk of hypertension, and the serum β–carotene level was inversely related to systolic blood pressure (SBP) Tomato extract contains carotenoids such as lycopene, β-carotene and vitamin E which are known as effective antioxidants, can inactivate free radicals, and have been shown to slow progression of atherosclerosis.
The oxidation-protecting effect of lycopene and tomatoes has been shown in both human and animal studies. A reduced oxidative modification of LDL may be one of the mechanisms by which lycopene reduces the risk of CAD and atherosclerotic progression.
Interest in lycopene continues to grow in the recent years, following the publication of epidemiologic and clinical studies about the association of high levels of lycopene and lower incidence of cardiovascular disease.
A short-term treatment with antioxidant-rich tomato extract (or dietary equivalent such as tomato juice or sauce made of cooked fresh or canned tomatoes) can reduce blood pressure in mild to moderate hypertensives. The positive results of these trials are encouraging.
Text extracts from “Tomatoes, Lycopene & Human Health, Preventing Chronic Diseases” © 2007 chapter title “Reducing Hypertension with Tomato Lycopene” by Dr Esther Paran, Ben Gurion University of the Negev, Beer Sheba, Israel