In a groundbreaking new study that’s sure to send health-conscious guys running to the produce market, tomatoes now are linked to lower stroke risk in men. Researchers examining the blood levels of more than 1,000 Finnish men ages 46 to 65, found that those whose blood contained the highest levels of lycopene had 55 percent less chance of suffering a stroke.
Those results, published in the October 8 issue of the journal Neurology, held true even after adjusting for the men’s age, health and other risk factors such as smoking and obesity. Because stroke is the third leading cause of death in this country, the fact that simply adding more tomatoes to your diet can add years to their life is big news for men in their middle years. Effects of lycopene on women’s stroke risk was not studied.
The research supports, “the recommendation that people get more than five servings of fruits and vegetables a day,” study author Jouni Karppi, Ph.D. told Healthline.com, “This would likely lead to a major reduction in the number of strokes worldwide, according to previous research.”
Tomatoes and tomato-based products are particularly recommended because they, “contain more lycopene than other fruits and vegetables,” according to Dr. Karppi.
Lycopenes are a powerful antioxidant that reduces inflammation and helps guard against the formation of blood clots that block blood flow to the brain, Jouni Karppi of the department of medicine at the Institute of Public Health and Clinical Nutrition at the University of Eastern Finland and lead author of the study, told ABC News. “Eating tomatoes and tomato-based foods is associated with a lower risk of any stroke,” Karppi said. “This study adds to the evidence that a diet high in fruits and vegetables is associated with a lower risk of stroke.”
The study followed the men for an average of 12 years, during which time 67 of them had a stroke. Lycopene was the only antioxidant associated with a lower risk. While researchers also checked levels of the antioxidants alpha-carotene, beta-carotene, alpha-tocopherol and retinol in the men’s blood, none of those were linked to a reduced stroke risk.
Tomatoes and other brightly colored fruits and vegetables are full of serum carotenoids, the yellow, orange and red pigments that give produce its vivid color and, scientists already knew, help to prevent heart disease and stroke. The Finnish study affirms that it is lycopene, the powerful red carotenoid found in tomatoes, that is most effective in avoiding strokes.
High levels of lycopene also are found in tomato-based products, such as tomato sauces and paste. “This study supports the recommendation of eating [more] servings of fruits and vegetables a day,” said Nancy Copperman, MS, RD, director of public health initiatives at the North Shore-Long Island Jewish Health System, in an interview with MedPage Today. For a break from eating tomatoes, she recommends eating watermelon, pink grapefruit and guava, all rich in lycopene.
Although tomatoes are a terrific boost to your health, they won’t prevent a stroke if your lifestyle is unhealthy. Up to 80 percent of strokes can be prevented. To maximize your chances of avoiding a brain attack, follow these tips from the National Stroke Association:
Get the information you need to improve your health and wellness on Healthline.com.
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