Men with increased intakes of the antioxidant lycopene found in tomatoes might have a lower risk of suffering a stroke, says a new study from Finland.
The observational study measured the blood concentrations of lycopene, beta-carotene and vitamins A and E in 1,031 men ages 46 to 65 and documented cases of stroke over a period 12 years (1). The study results showed that, after accounting for major stroke risk factors such as smoking, high blood pressure and diabetes, participants with the highest lycopene levels had a 55 percent lower risk of suffering a stroke compared to those with the lowest levels. The other nutrients were not linked to the participants’ stroke risk.
The researchers commented that it is plausible that lycopene could have a direct effect on stroke risk, as it is a potent antioxidant which helps the body to protect cells from oxidative damage that can ultimately lead to disease. Lab research also suggests that lycopene helps fight inflammation and blood clots.
Lycopene is a carotenoid that gives a reddish hue to foods like tomatoes, red peppers, watermelon and papaya. For most people, tomatoes and tomato products are by far the biggest source of lycopene in the diet. As the current study lacks some critical information, such as the men's overall diet habits, it does not prove that tomatoes and ketchup can cut anyone's stroke risk, the scientists noted.