Tomato Pills for Heart Health
Scientists have devised a pill made from lycopene, the pigment found in tomatoes, that they say can prevent heart disease and stroke, according to the London Daily Mail. Lycopene not only turns tomatoes red but is recognized for its health benefits. Until now, attempts to turn lycopene into a dietary supplement have been unsuccessful because there were no ways to get the body to absorb it, says the Daily Mail.
For this new pill, scientists used an powerful form of the chemical, which they extracted from an Italian tomato called the tangerine. The pill, called Ateronon, was launched this summer in London at an international meeting of heart specialists, according to the London Daily Mail. According to clinical studies, the tomato pill reduced harmful changes to "bad" cholesterol by 90 percent within two months.
Lycopene actually helps stop blood from getting sticky and forming potentially dangerous clots that might cause blockages in veins and arteries. The yellow fluid that surrounds the seeds of the tomatoes is where the anti-clotting properties are found.
Blood platelets are the particles in blood that cause clotting; they're needed to help wounds heal after an operation or an accident but when they become too sticky, they bind together, which can stop the blood from flowing freely.
Nearly 50,000 people annually die as a result of clots caused by a buildup of platelets. Most at risk for a clot are long distance air travelers, people who've already had a stroke or heart attack, smokers, women on the birth control pill and pregnant women.
So the question remains: Will the tomato pill be effective in the war against cardiovascular disease? The study that looked at the benefit of getting lycopene in pill form was quite small, notes Dr. Leo Pozuelo, psychiatrist and an associate director of the Bakken Heart Brain Institute at the Cleveland Clinic.
"Other fruits and vegetables also are beneficial because they are rich in antioxidants like lycopene," Pozuelo says. "We recommend that since antioxidants are important to take to prevent heart disease, eating foods that contain them is a good idea."
Like Lycopene? Eat This
Regardless of how effective a tomato pill may be, you can get plenty of lycopene from whole tomatoes and from other red fruits and vegetables, such as watermelon.
Lycopene is also found in red bell peppers, pink grapefruit, and guava. To boost the lycopene content in your diet, serve guava slices or halved pink grapefruit for breakfast. Add slices of tomato to a grilled cheese sandwich try skewering cherry tomatoes and red bell pepper cubes with chicken or shrimp, brushing with olive oil, and grilling them. Make a homemade pizza with plenty of jarred tomato sauce, a premade crust and a package of pre-grated mozzarella cheese. In the summer, serve watermelon slices for dessert, or freeze watermelon so it's like an ice pop.
You could stuff a tomato or a red bell pepper with steamed couscous, bulgur or brown rice that you've seasoned with fresh herbs and garlic. Or serve red bell pepper strips with a lowfat dip for a quick appetizer.
In the end, you may discover you love the taste of lycopene-rich foods so much you'd actually rather eat them than take a tasteless little pill!
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