A New Disease-fighting Ability of the Tomato

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Researchers have found that the ultra- common tomato has a nutrient that could help prevent vascular diseases. Any condition that affects the heart's ability to pump blood is a vascular disease. The tomato was found to lower cholesterol and fat in the blood.Researchers have found that the ultra-common tomato has a nutrient that could help prevent vascular diseases. It does so by lowering cholesterol and fat in the blood.

Vascular diseases are those that affect the body’s blood vessels. They are often serious and include arteriosclerosis, which is caused by thickened and stiffened arteries that block blood flow to the heart and brain. Any condition that affects the heart’s ability to pump blood is a vascular disease.

But bring on the tomatoes! Scientists found a particular nutrient within tomatoes that could help stop a vascular disease from developing. The research, published in “Molecular Nutrition & Food Research,” identified “9-oxo-octadecadienoic” as that compound.

The researchers, based in Japan, focused on food extracts that are believed to play a role in treating “dyslipidemia.” This is a condition caused by an abnormal amount of “lipids,” such as cholesterol or fat, in the bloodstream.

Dyslipidemia doesn’t have any specific symptoms, which makes it dangerous. But having all sorts of cholesterol and fats floating around can pave the way for vascular diseases such as arteriosclerosis. To prevent such major complications, you must prevent an increased build-up of lipids.

Tomatoes are known to contain many compounds beneficial to health. That is especially true for the heart’s health. Tomatoes are a huge source of lycopene, which has been in the news for decades. The antioxidant nature of lycopene is believed to help prevent cancer and heart disease. This time, 9-oxo-octadecadienoic acid went under the microscope. Could it fight dyslipidemia and lower cholesterol and fat?

In a word, yes. The compound was found to help metabolize fatty acids and lipids in the blood. This suggests that 9-oxo-octadecadienoic acid has anti-dyslipidemia effects and could therefore keep the heart pumping efficiently.

“Finding a compound which helps the prevention of obesity-related chronic diseases in foodstuffs is a great advantage to tackling these diseases”, the researchers write. It means that any of us can hit the produce aisle and pick up some tomatoes, and thus help manage the cholesterol levels in our bodies.

Since cooked tomatoes (like tomato sauce) are known to have higher levels of lycopene, the same could be true of this compound as well. So, when choosing between a cream sauce and tomato sauce on your whole-grain pasta, there is one clear frontrunner.