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  • 6/20/2007

Tomatoes Put You in Good Heart



Tomatoes are a healthy choice as part of a balanced diet.

Given the choice of basing your whole diet on a single food type, most people would not immediately reach for a tomato.

But this is exactly what one group of Scots are about to do in the name of science.

Researchers in Aberdeen want to find out exactly what role tomatoes play in improving heart health.

To do this, according to WorldScientist.com, they are looking for 250 volunteers to take part in the four-month program, in which one group will be asked to eat a high-tomato diet.

According to Dr. Frank Thies, a senior lecturer in human nutrition, the minimum tomato intake would be equivalent to four bolognese-based dishes and two bowls of tomato soup a week, perhaps with some tomato sauce on the side.

But he said if they wanted to eat tomatoes at every meal, this would not be discouraged.

“Each meal is given points so we can see what level of consumption is most beneficial.

“If they want to have tomatoes in every meal, they can, but they must reach the minimum level.“

Much research has linked eating tomato-based foods with a lower risk of cardiovascular disease.

The benefits are thought to be due partly to the high concentration of the bright red pigment lycopene, a powerful antioxidant.

But trials of dietary change have yet to prove the link.

The Food Standards Agency (FSA) is funding the Aberdeen University study, in which a high-tomato diet group will be compared with those on a low-tomato diet--a fairly normal British diet--and a group on a low-tomato diet taking a lycopene supplement.

The researchers will then measure how well their hearts are working and take blood samples to assess the impact of tomatoes in their diet.

Dr. Thies said: “Our results could allow the FSA to develop nutritional policies involving tomato-based food to combat cardiovascular disease.“

Judy O’Sullivan, of the British Heart Foundation, said: “Tomatoes are a healthy choice as part of a balanced diet. However, currently there is no evidence to say that tomatoes have any particularly special effect on the heart,“ she said.

David Clark, chief executive of Chest, Heart and Stroke Scotland, said people should not see tomatoes as a “magic bullet“.

“Eating one thing will not protect you against heart disease if you continue to eat a bad diet, smoke and don’t take any exercise,“ he said.

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