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Jun 10, 2014 03:13 AM EDT

Compound Found in Tomato Improves Blood Vessel Function in Heart Disease Patients, Study

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Daily intake of lycopene supplements - a compound found in tomatoes and other foods - improves blood vessel function in patients with cardiovascular disease, according to a new study by the University of Cambridge.

Researchers found that blood vessel function improved by 53 percent in cardiovascular disease patients, who popped a 7-milligram oral lycopene supplement daily for two months.

"We've shown quite clearly that lycopene improves the function of blood vessels in cardiovascular disease patients," said Dr. Joseph Cheriyan, a consultant clinical pharmacologist and physician at Addenbrooke's Hospital and associate lecturer at the University of Cambridge, in a press release. "It reinforces the need for a healthy diet in people at risk from heart disease and stroke."

The researchers, however, have not determined whether enhanced blood vessel function would lead to reduced heart disease incidence. Cheriyan said that larger trails are required to analyse the relationship.

Previous studies showed that cardiovascular diseases are less prevalent in countries that adopt Mediterranean diet consisting of lycopene-rich tomatoes, vegetables and olive oil.

Although other studies have established a link between lycopene consumption and lower cardiovascular disease risk, they have not proved the effect of the compound on the function of blood vessels.

For the study, 36 cardiovascular disease patients and 36 healthy people (control group) consumed an Ateronon, a lycopene supplement or a placebo. The researchers measured the participant's blood vessel function by examining their response to a molecule - acetylcholine - in their forearms.

The researchers found that lycopene improved and normalised endothelial function in cardiovascular disease patients. The compound expanded the blood vessels by over a half (53 percent) and allowed them to dilate more in response to acetylcholine in the patients. Lycopene, however, did not alter the blood vessel function in the healthy participants.

The researchers also found that taking lycopene supplements did not affect blood pressure, arterial stiffness or lipid levels.

Dr. Stanley Hazen, a cardiologist at the Cleveland Clinic who was not involved in the research, described the finding as a promising discovery.

"It is a nice attempt to show how nutrition can improve" blood-vessel function, said Dr. Monica Aggarwal, a cardiologist and a member of the Heart Center at Mercy Medical Center in Baltimore. "Fifty-three percent is an impressive number," Live Science reports.

Although the study has found lycopene supplements as beneficial, researchers advice patients to consume real fruits and vegetables in higher quantities.

© 2017 University Herald, All rights reserved. Do not reproduce without permission.

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