Tomatoes Linked To Lowering Stroke Risk
Tuesday, October 09, 2012
Tomatoes are high in the antioxidant lycopene, and the study found that people with the highest amounts of lycopene in their blood were 55 percent less likely to have a stroke than people with the lowest amounts of lycopene in their blood.
“This study adds to the evidence that a diet high in fruits and vegetables is associated with a lower risk of stroke,” said study author Jouni Karppi, PhD, of the University of Eastern Finland in Kuopio. “The results support the recommendation that people get more than five servings of fruits and vegetables a day, which would likely lead to a major reduction in the number of strokes worldwide, according to previous research.”
Expert reaction from Mary M. Flynn, Miriam Hospital
Mary M. Flynn, Ph.D., RD, LDN, research dietitian at The Miriam Hospital says she was not surprised at these results, as they measured blood levels of lycopene. "Lycopene is one of the carotenoids, a family of phytonutrients that have wonderful health benefits and present in vegetables and fruits as color," Flynn said. "The deeper the color, the higher carotenoid content. Lycopene is red in color so it is found in tomatoes, but also other red vegetables and fruits such as watermelon, red peppers, etc."
Flynn says that not all lycopene is absorbed into the body, so it was good that the study measured blood levels and not intake of lycopene containing foods. "All carotenoids need to have dietary fat present to be maximally absorbed; eating dark color produce without fat (ie no fat added to salads, boiling/ steaming vegetables, etc) means that you do not get the carotenoids into your body. Cooking the vegetables into fat means even more get absorbed," she said.
The other factor is the form of the carotenoid, Flynn said. "The lycopene in fresh tomatoes is not absorbed but the form in processed (canned tomatoes, ketchup, jarred sauce) tomatoes is; so, to get lycopene into the blood, you need to have fat present at the meal and you need to eat processed tomatoes."
The study involved 1,031 men in Finland between the ages of 46 and 65. The level of lycopene in their blood was tested at the start of the study and they were followed for an average of 12 years. During that time, 67 men had a stroke.
Among the men with the lowest levels of lycopene, 25 of 258 men had a stroke. Among those with the highest levels of lycopene, 11 of 259 men had a stroke. When researchers looked at just strokes due to blood clots, the results were even stronger. Those with the highest levels of lycopene were 59 percent less likely to have a stroke than those with the lowest levels.
The study also looked at blood levels of the antioxidants alpha-carotene, beta-carotene, alpha-tocopherol and retinol, but found no association between the blood levels and risk of stroke.
To learn more about stroke, visit http://www.aan.com/patients.
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