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Tomato pill 'could help blood flow'

A pill that contains the pigment that provides tomatoes with their colouring is being hailed as a potential means of improving the health of people who have survived heart attacks.

Rich in the antioxidant lycopene, scientists report that taking one pill a day may enhance blood vessel flow by as much as 50 per cent in cardiac patients.

Each of the pills tested contained around the same amount of lycopene as over two pounds of tomatoes in the form of a supplement called Ateronon.

The experts from the University of Cambridge and the Cambridge University Hospitals NHS Trust discovered that the blood vessels of individuals taking a pill every day for a month widened by 53 per cent.

The health benefits linked to the Mediterranean diet are thought to be provided in part by lycopene, which is ten times more powerful as an antioxidant than vitamin E.

Consultant clinical pharmacologist and physician at Addenbrooke's Hospital and associate lecturer at the University of Cambridge Dr Joseph Cheriyan said the research highlighted the importance of a healthy diet for those at risk of heart disease or stroke.

"A daily 'tomato pill' is not a substitute for other treatments, but may provide added benefits when taken alongside other medication," he added. "However, we cannot answer if this may reduce heart disease - this would need much larger trials to investigate outcomes more carefully."

The trial carried out was randomised, double blind and interventional, with 36 cardiovascular disease patients and 36 healthy volunteers given either Ateronon or a placebo.

Published in journal PLOS One, the study received funding from a number of organisations, including the British Heart Foundation. Its associate medical director Professor Jeremy Pearson commented that further work is required "to understand whether the beneficial effects seen in this small study translate into clinical benefit for at-risk patients".

Improving the functioning of blood vessels can help to prevent heart attacks and strokes, as constriction of vessels is a contributory factor. However, researchers found no effects on arterial stiffness, lipid levels or blood pressure as a result of taking lycopene supplements.

Individuals who have heart problems could find oxygen enriched air improves their overall wellbeing by improving breathing.

Posted by Jenny RichardsADNFCR-2960-ID-801727578-ADNFCR

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