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Health Watch: Tomatoes May Lower Stroke Risk

10/9/2012CLEVELAND, Ohio (WCCO) – Lots of homes are stocked with tomatoes fresh out of the garden. And now a new study, published in the journal Neurology, finds there may be some big health benefits to eating tomatoes and tomato-based foods.

28-year-old Seth Jones tries to eat a healthy diet.

“I prefer to maintain a vegetarian diet, but I do eat meat from time to time,” Jones said.

Now a new study shows those tomatoes could lower his risk of stroke. Researchers followed about 1,000 men in Finland and tested their blood for lycopene, found in tomatoes and tomato based foods. People with the highest amounts of lycopene in their blood were 55 percent less likely to have a stroke.

Lisa Cimperman, a clinical dietician at University Hospitals Case Medical Center, says lycopene is the key.

“Lycopene is an antioxidant, so it may help prevent damage to the walls of our blood vessels. and really this is how a stroke might, really something that might lead to a stroke,” Cimperman said.

Nutritionists say you can get more lycopene from tomatoes if you cook them. It breaks down the tomato’s cell walls and makes it easier for your body to absorb the antioxidants.

More research is needed to confirm the study’s results. But experts say everyone should still eat more than five servings of fruits and vegetables to stay healthy.

Cimperman says the benefits go beyond stroke prevention.

“We’re not just talking about stroke. We’re talking about high blood pressure, diabetes, obesity, heart disease. A healthy diet rich in fruits and vegetables can help prevent chronic disease,” Cimperman said.

Seth says he’s glad what’s for dinner could help his health.

“Probably pizza, maybe some pasta,” Jones said.

His grandfather died from a stroke, so he’s hoping this new research could prevent one.