Monday, October 8, 2012

In the News: Tomato Helps Cut the Risk Of a Stroke, Study Shows

For what it's worth... oh, well, it couldn't some tomato sauce...

by Jennifer Corbett Dooren, Wall Street Journal, October 8, 2012

A diet that includes tomatoes could lower the chance of having a stroke.

A new study shows that men who had the highest levels of lycopene—an antioxidant found in tomatoes—had fewer strokes than men who had the lowest level of lycopene in their blood.

Overall, the risk of strokes was reduced by 55%.

The study, based in Finland, will be published in the Oct. 9 issue of the medical journal Neurology. Lycopene is found in the highest concentrations in cooked tomato products like paste, purée and sauce, according to the United States Department of Agriculture's national nutrient database.

A cup of ready-to-serve marina sauce has more than 31,000 micrograms of lycopene while the average raw tomato has about 3,165 micrograms, according to USDA. A slice of fast food pizza has 2,074 micrograms of lycopene. A tablespoon of ketchup has 2,146 micrograms of lycopene.

Lycopene is also found in watermelon, grapefruit, papaya and mango.

There are no government recommendations specific to lycopene consumption, but U.S. dietary guidelines have traditionally recommended Americans consume at least five to nine servings of fruits and vegetables per day. In 2010, the U.S. updated its dietary guidelines, stating Americans should "increase" fruit and vegetable intake, noting that least 2½ cups of fruits and vegetables per day was associated with a reduced risk of heart attacks and strokes. There have also been some studies that suggest lycopene can cut the risk of prostate and other types of cancer.

Dr. Rafael Ortiz, director of the Center for Stroke and Neuro-Endovascular Surgery at Lenox Hill Hospital in New York, who wasn't involved in the lycopene study, said it shows "diet is very important" for cutting stroke risk along with exercising and not smoking. He said lycopene reduces inflammation and prevents blood clots from forming.

The Finnish study involved 1,031 men who were part of a larger study looking at risk factors for the development of cardiovascular disease. The men were between ages 42 and 61 and living in and around the city of Kuopio in Eastern Finland when they first enrolled in the study in the early 1990s. Samples of blood were taken at the study's start and seven years later for most men. The men were followed an average of 12 years.

Jouni Karppi, the study's lead author who is affiliated with the University of Eastern Finland's Department of Medicine, said that the main goal of the study was to look at whether other substances such as retinol, or vitamin A, and alpha-tocopherol, a type of vitamin E, impacted stroke rates.

They found no association with the levels of vitamin A or E, but instead found men who had the highest level of lycopene in their bodies were 55% less likely to have a stroke than men with the lowest amount of lycopene. They were 59% less likely to have a type of stroke called an ischemic stroke, the most common type of stroke that is caused by a blood clot.

Overall, there were 67 strokes among the 1,031 men in the study. Of those, 50 were ischemic. There were 25 strokes among 258 men who were considered to have the lowest levels of lycopene while there were 11 strokes among men with the highest lycopene levels. The men were divided into four groups by lycopene levels.

The study was funded by Lapland Central Hospital in Finland.

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