Tomato Extract Lowers Blood Pressure
Taking a tomato extract supplement may lower blood pressure in people with mildly high blood pressure, according to the American Heart Journal (2006;151:100e1–100e6). The tomato supplement also reduced oxidative damage, effects which are thought to be caused by antioxidants in the tomato extract, particularly carotenoids, such as lycopene and beta-carotene.
Carotenoids occur naturally in many foods. Tomatoes are the richest dietary source of lycopene. Watermelon and pink grapefruit also contain small amounts. Although the evidence is not conclusive and the FDA does not permit the claim on product labels, many studies have found that lycopene from tomatoes is protective against prostate cancer. Though previous studies have suggested that antioxidants can lower blood pressure in people with hypertension, this is the first controlled study of tomato extract for that purpose.
Sustained high blood pressure, or hypertension, is one of the most common health problems in developed countries and is well-known to raise the risk of cardiovascular disease and death. Blood pressure is expressed as two numbers: an upper number (called systolic blood pressure) and a lower number (called diastolic blood pressure). A normal blood pressure for a healthy adult is about 120/80 millimeters of mercury (mm Hg) on a blood pressure gauge. Mild hypertension is when the systolic blood pressure is 140 to 159 mm Hg, the diastolic blood pressure is 90 to 99 mm Hg, or both.
In the present study, 31 people with mild hypertension took a capsule containing 250 mg of tomato extract every day for eight weeks. During that time, both systolic and diastolic blood pressure readings decreased significantly, with the sharpest declines seen in the last two weeks of the study. Each tomato extract capsule provided 15 mg of lycopene, about the same as would be found in 3 ounces of tomato sauce. The tomato extract also provided small amounts of beta-carotene, vitamin E, and other nutrients that occur naturally in tomatoes.
It is not known if these encouraging results would persist with prolonged supplementation, or if people with moderate or severe hypertension would also respond with declines in blood pressure. Nevertheless, the results of this preliminary study suggest that eating tomato products could help reverse the early stages of hypertension, thus reducing the risk of cardiovascular disease.
Jeremy Appleton, ND, CNS, is a licensed naturopathic physician, certified nutrition specialist, and published author. Dr. Appleton was the Nutrition Department Chair at the National College of Naturopathic Medicine, has served on the faculty at Bastyr University of Natural Health Sciences, and is a former Healthnotes Senior Science Editor and a founding contributor to Healthnotes Newswire. He has worked extensively in scientific and regulatory affairs in the supplement industry and is now a consultant through his company Praxis Natural Products Consulting and Wellness Services.
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