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Tomatoes in the fight against cardiovascular disease

Following a balanced nutritional diet has always been associated with good health. European scientists have come to provide proof of that by investigating the role of the tomato’s main constituent, lycopene, against heart disease.
Tomatoes in the fight against cardiovascular disease
Lycopene, a plant pigment found in high concentration in red fruits, especially tomatoes, is believed to exert a protective effect against cardiovascular disease and cancer. However, we are missing essential information regarding lycopene bioavailability, metabolism and molecular mechanism of action.

To this end, the EU-funded ′Role of lycopene for the prevention of cardiovascular diseases′ (Lycocard) project aimed to study the in vivo effects of lycopene-containing food following a ‘total food chain’ approach. More specifically, the consortium set out to investigate the effects of technological processing on lycopene and delineate the interactions between different food ingredients. Additionally, it wished to identify the molecular path of lycopene absorption and metabolism, while emphasising the biological effects of lycopene isomers and lycopene metabolites.

Coupled with various findings from epidemiological studies, the Lycocard initiative provided important information on the stability of tomato compounds and on the influence of processing and storage conditions on bioactive ingredients. This has the potential to lead to manufacturing of lycopene-containing food products with higher and more stable active compounds.

A further project achievement was the collaboration with the Framingham Heart Study of Boston University. The data included in the Framingham study were re-evaluated in relation to lycopene uptake, providing further evidence of the usefulness of tomato products in reducing the risk of cardiovascular diseases.

Lycocard information is expected to lead to improved nutritional guidelines and healthy new foods based on tomatoes. Through formulation of novel dietary guidelines, consumers will find it easier to select specific diets to prevent and minimise their disease risk.

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