Tomatoes, known for their high vitamin C and nutrient content, have been associated with improved heart health and diabetes. A new study has found a link between tomato consumption and a reduced risk of developing high blood pressure.
According to the study published in the European Journal of Preventive Cardiology, consuming tomatoes helps control high blood pressure and may even prevent the development of high blood pressure in older adults.
Previous clinical studies had conflicting results regarding the effects of tomato consumption on blood pressure. Therefore, researchers in the latest study sought to understand how tomato consumption affects the risk of high blood pressure in older adults who are at increased risk of cardiovascular problems.
„Consuming tomatoes, including tomato-based products, is beneficial in preventing and treating high blood pressure. Higher tomato consumption reduces the risk of high blood pressure by 36%, and moderate consumption lowers blood pressure, particularly in stage 1 hypertension,“ the researchers wrote.
The study examined 7,056 participants, 82.5% of whom had high blood pressure. Based on their daily tomato consumption, they were divided into four groups: those consuming less than 44 grams, those with an intake between 44 and 82 grams (moderate level), those in the range of 82 to 110 grams (upper moderate level), and those consuming more than 110 grams of tomatoes.
The researchers found a reduced diastolic blood pressure (the pressure in the arteries when the heart is at rest) in the highest and moderate groups. Participants with stage 1 high blood pressure and moderate tomato consumption experienced a significant reduction in both systolic (pressure in the arteries during a heartbeat) and diastolic blood pressure.
„The cardioprotective mechanisms involved in lowering blood pressure may partly be attributed to the presence of lycopene in tomatoes,“ said Rosa María Lamuela-Raventós, Director of the Institute for Research on Nutrition and Food Safety at the University of Barcelona.
„Lycopene, the most common carotenoid in tomatoes, not only reduces angiotensin-converting enzyme and its gene expression, thereby preventing the synthesis of angiotensin 2… but also promotes the formation of nitric oxide in the endothelium – helping lower blood pressure and improve circulation,“ added Lamuela-Raventós, co-author of the study.
Angiotensin 2 leads to narrowing of blood vessels, making it more difficult for the heart to push blood through. Blood pressure medications like ACE inhibitors reduce the production of angiotensin-converting enzymes.
The study does not indicate if there is a difference in the effect when consuming raw and cooked tomatoes. However, Lamuela-Raventós speculates that the beneficial effect may be more pronounced when cooking tomatoes. This is because the cooking process could enhance the bioavailability of carotenoids and other antioxidants like polyphenols in tomatoes.