Tomato Products Reduce LDL Cholesterol by 13%

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Tomato, tom-AH-to… no matter how you say it, the tomato and its byproducts are packed with healthful nutrients. Now a new study from Finland says tomatoes may even help improve your cholesterol. The researchers report that people who ate tomato products every day for just three weeks lowered their LDL ("bad") cholesterol by 13%.

The study, published in the British Journal of nutrition, focused on 21 healthy volunteers with normal cholesterol readings. They consumed a totally tomato-free diet for the first three weeks, then a three-week "high-tomato" diet that included 30 milligrams of ketchup and 400 milliliters of tomato juice daily. That's about two tablespoons of ketchip and one and two-third cups of tomato juice.

The subjects' cholesterol levels were then re-measured and found to have dropped significantly; total cholesterol levels fell nearly 6% on average. Even more encouraging, though, was the drop in LDL cholesterol levels, which decreased nearly 13%.

Further evaluation of the subjects' blood samples revealed synergistic benefits from their elevated levels of lycopene, betacarotene and gamma-carotene. Marja-Leena Silaste, MSc, from the University of Oulu, and colleagues noted that the subjects' circulating LDL cholesterol resisted forming oxidized phospholipids, a marker for oxidative stress.

High cholesterol levels have long been associated with a variety of diseases, notably cardiovascular disease, the leading cause of death in the US.

Tomatoes provide the nutrients betacarotene, vitamins C and E, and lycopene, the antioxidant that gives tomatoes their characteristic red color. The FDA has approved a qualified health claim for tomatoes in reducing the risk of prostate, gastric, ovarian and pancreatic cancers.

Although high intake of tomatoes and tomato products had previously also been associated with a reduced risk of cardiovascular disease, scientists didn't understand why. The new research suggests a possible mechanism, with the tomatoes affecting the body's cholesterol levels.

TO LEARN MORE: British Journal of Nutrition, December 2007; abstract at .

Did you know… Laid end to end, the amount of Marshmallow Peeps eaten each Easter could more than circle the Earth; each has 32 calories and 0 grams of fat.

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