May 26/Adelaide, Australia/University of Adelaide -- A University of Adelaide study has shown that tomatoes may be an effective alternative to medication in lowering cholesterol and blood pressure, thus preventing cardiovascular disease.

A paper published by Dr. Karin Ried in the April 2011 issue of the international journal Maturitas reveals clinical evidence that a bright red pigment called lycopene found in tomatoes and to a lesser extent in watermelon, guava, papaya, pink grapefruit and rosehip has antioxidant properties that are vital to good health.

The University of Adelaide notes Ried and her colleague Dr. Peter Fakler from the Discipline of General Practice are the first to summarize the effect of lycopene on cholesterol and blood pressure, analyzing the collective results of 14 studies in the last 55 years.

"Our study suggests that if more than 25mg of lycopene is taken daily, it can reduce LDL-cholesterol by up to 10%," Ried says.

Tomatoes in particular have high levels of lycopene, with half a liter of tomato juice taken daily, or 50g of tomato paste, providing protection against heart disease.

"That's comparable to the effect of low doses of medication commonly prescribed for people with slightly elevated cholesterol, but without the side effects of these drugs, which can include muscle pain and weakness and nerve damage."

Ried says lycopene is better absorbed in processed and cooked tomatoes or tomato paste rather than fresh tomatoes. As a supplement, lypocene is available in soft gelatine capsules or tablets.

"Research shows that high lycopene consumption has been associated with a decreased risk of cardiovascular disease, including hardened arteries, heart attacks and strokes."

Ried says more research is needed to explore whether doses higher than 25-44mg of lypocene a day provide additional benefits.


From the May 26, 2011, Prepared Foods' Daily News.