Tomato a Day Keeps Heart Disease Away
Just one serving a day of tomato-based foods such as pizza or tomato
sauce could lower your risk for heart disease by as much as 30 percent,
contends a new Harvard study.
"The results are pretty enticing,"
says study author Howard Sesso, an assistant professor at the Harvard
School of Public Health and Brigham and Women's Hospital in Boston.
"They're encouraging enough for us to do more studies."
Sesso and his colleagues reviewed
the diets of approximately 40,000 women from the ongoing Women's
Health Study, which was begun 11 years ago to follow women who,
at the time, were free from cancer and cardiovascular disease.
Controlling for factors such as age,
family history, smoking status and other health indicators, they
found that women who consumed seven or more servings of tomato-based
foods a week -- including tomato juice, tomatoes, tomato sauce or
pizza -- had a nearly 30 percent reduction in risk for cardiovascular
disease compared with women who ate less than one and one-half servings
The study was sparked by research
that has shown a connection between an increase in the diet of the
antioxidant lycopene and a reduction in risk for prostate cancer,
Sesso says. Since tomatoes are a rich source of lycopene, he and
his colleagues were interested to learn if the same antioxidant
qualities, when eaten in tomatoes, might also lower heart disease
Interestingly, however, when the
researchers tabulated the result, the lycopene intake itself was
not significantly associated with reduced heart disease risk. However,
when they looked at food intake, as measured by self-reported servings,
there was a clear cardiovascular benefit for those who consumed
the tomato-based products on a regular basis.
This could be due to errors in measuring
lycopene, Sesso says, because of the limited information available
in the questionnaire. Or, another substance in the tomato-based
foods could be providing the heart benefit, he says.
Whatever the cause, he says, "our
study suggests preliminary evidence that consuming a number of servings
of tomato-based foods per week may lower the risk of cardiovascular
disease." The finding appears in the July issue of the American
Society for Nutritional Sciences.
Connie Diekman, director of university
nutrition for Washington University in St. Louis, finds the study
promising, both because the large number of women surveyed make
the results significant and because the findings concur with other
work on the topic.
"The results may still be inconclusive,
but the indication that lycopene/tomatoes may aid in the prevention
of disease continues to evolve," she says. "I would encourage
people to take these results and add them to the growing list of
studies that point to the benefits of more fruits, vegetables and
Sesso points out that those people
who showed the benefit from eating the tomato foods might just have
an overall healthier diet than those who had fewer servings of tomatoes.
"It could be the diet itself,
one that includes more fruits and vegetables," he says. "Those
people would have a better cardiovascular profile."
"It's hard to be specific,"
he says of the findings, "but there's a potential that regular
servings of tomatoes can have a dramatic effect on cardiovascular
Academy of Family Physicians has helpful recommendations for
healthy eating and other ways to reduce heart disease risk. And,
a chicken ratatouille recipe that includes tomatoes can be found
Young at Heart, a Web offering of the National Heart, Lung,
and Blood Institute.
Reference Source 101