Eat Your Tomatoes to Protect Cardiovascular Health

November 3, 2014 Updated: November 2, 2014

For years we’ve been told that the Mediterranean diet, full of vegetables, is the way to guard against heart attack and stroke.

George H. W. Bush, former president of the United States, once admitted he didn`t like broccoli—and angry farmers dumped a load of it on the White House lawn. I share his view, so I`m grateful now that the red tomato is believed to be the main vegetable for decreasing the risk of cardiovascular disease.

So what is the magic ingredient in tomatoes that fights heart attack and stroke?

Researchers at Cambridge University say that the lycopene in red tomatoes keeps the endothelial lining (the inner part) of the human artery healthy, decreasing the risk of blockage. We all know what happens when too much rust collects inside the plumbing in a house. The same scenario in arteries sets the stage for a variety of cardiovascular troubles.

Tomatoes are loaded with lycopene. It provides the distinctive red color to fruits and vegetables. In addition, it’s a powerful antioxidant, 10 times more potent than vitamin E. As fire produces ash, so human metabolism produces free radicals, which are waste removed by antioxidants.

Lycopene is also present in tomato soup, tomato paste, pink grapefruit, watermelon, and seafood sauce.

Researchers studied patients with cardiovascular disease who were taking cholesterol-lowering drugs (CLDs) and another group of healthy volunteers. Half of the subjects were given 7 milligrams of lycopene; the other half were given a placebo.

Eight weeks later, the researchers discovered that those taking lycopene showed increased blood flow in the forearm. But there was another interesting finding: The patients with cardiovascular disease, in spite of being treated aggressively with CLDs, still had relatively impaired function of the endothelium compared to the healthy volunteers.

It’s a rare day that I don’t eat a tomato, which acts much like Drano, keeping my arteries open. But I would not sleep well if I relied solely on tomatoes.

I also continue to take several thousand milligrams of vitamin C and lysine daily. Why? Because this combination is the only natural remedy I know that not only prevents, but also reverses the atherosclerotic rust in coronary and other arteries.

Visit my website, www.docgiff.com, to see dramatic before-and-after photos of how high amounts of vitamin C and lysine can make old arteries new. You don’t need to be a doctor to see this dramatic change.

But lycopene isn’t just for keeping arteries healthy. Research shows that it also fights prostate cancer and other malignancies.

Anti-Cancer Effect

Dr. Omar Kucuk, professor of medicine and oncology at Wayne State University in Michigan, is an authority on the “red power” of tomatoes. He studied 26 patients who were scheduled to have surgery for prostate cancer. Some of these patients were prescribed 15 milligrams of a lycopene supplement twice daily; the others got a placebo.

Following surgery, those who took lycopene had smaller tumors, more likely to be confined to the prostate gland. Equally important, the cancer was less malignant.

Researchers at the Harvard Medical School studied 48,000 professionals to see if there was any association between eating fruits and vegetables and prostate cancer. They concluded that tomatoes and tomato-based products decreased the risk of this malignancy.

Another Harvard project, “The Physicians Health Study,” found a 41 percent reduction in the risk of prostate cancer when there were high blood levels of lycopene. It was the only compound that had this effect.

Lycopene also benefits females, showing a significant and consistent effect in decreasing the risk of precancerous changes in the cervix. Other studies show that it decreases the risk of stomach, bladder, lung, and breast malignancy.

Let’s end on another happy note, particularly for pizza lovers. Dr. Edward Giovannucci at the Harvard Medical School followed patients who had consumed tomatoes, tomato sauce, or pizza more than twice a week. He reports they had up to 34 percent less risk of prostate cancer than those who rarely ate these foods.

Dr. Gifford-Jones is a medical journalist in Toronto. His website is DocGiff.com. He may be contacted at Info@docgiff.com.