Maximum Wellness, Episode 01: Tomatoes can help lower your blood pressure

Basket of Tomatoes

Hypertension (HT) is a significant risk factor to cardiovascular disease, as a result of the HT-associated oxidative stress and the pro-inflammatory conditions. Stage 1 hypertension is diagnosed with a systolic blood pressure (SBP) of 130-139 mm Hg or a diastolic blood pressure (DBP) of 80-89 mm Hg, while stage 2 is a SBP of greater than 140 mm Hg or a DBP of greater than 90. As a result of side effects associated with some anti-HT medications, science is always on the lookout for “complementary” treatments, which will stand the test of scrutiny and peer review research.

One such HT treatment option, which fits into a positive lifestyle approach such as the DASH (dietary approach to stop hypertension), consumption of fruits and vegetables, and the post exercise hypotension (drop in SBP and DBP) effect, is the antioxidant lycopene, which is sourced in tomato products or extracts. Lycopene has also demonstrated positive effects with certain disease processes – like prostate cancer prevention in men.

Research – “Effects of Tomato Nutrient Complex on Blood Pressure: A Double Blind, Randomized Dose-Response Study” – appearing in the May issue of the journal Nutrients – comments that, “several studies demonstrate that oral supplementation with tomato extract or tomato juice significantly decreases BP (blood pressure), while other studies show no relation or no obvious association. Interestingly one study even shows that lycopene can elevate BP.”

To clarify this discrepancy, researchers at the University of Negev, Beer Sheva, Israel, and Shaare Zedek Medical Center in Jerusalem, sought to determine, “the effective doses of tomato nutrient complex (TNC) to maintain normal blood pressure in untreated hypertensive individuals.” The researchers compared the effect of TNC treatment (5, 15 and 30 mg lycopene) versus 15 mg of synthetic lycopene, and a placebo over an eight-week period.

Sixty-one hypertensive individuals – without anti-HT treatment – who were between 35–60 years of age, were recruited from primary-care clinics. The recruited patients had SBP in the range of 130 and 145 mmHg or DBP ranges from 80 to 95 mmHg. Exclusion criteria included any person treated for HT or with any abnormal lipids, who had suspected allergy to tomato, carotenoids or ?-tocopherol (vitamin E) – along with those subjects, who were taking vitamins or other food additives. The test subjects completed a thorough physical examination, comprehensive medical and dietary history, blood pressure, pulse rate, height, weight, and body mass index. They were randomized, after a single-blinded, four-week placebo run-in period, to a double-blind, placebo-controlled treatment phase. Pre and post-test blood chemistries included liver function, lactic dehydrogenase, bilirubin, and blood lipid profile.

“Results suggest that only carotenoid levels achieved by the TNC dose of 15 mg lycopene or higher correlate to a beneficial effect on SBP in hypertensive subjects, while lower doses and lycopene alone do not,” according to the study.” The researchers also stated that, “remarkably, treatment with 15 mg of synthetic lycopene as a standalone did not cause a significant reduction in SBP.” It appears that the combined effect – the sum of the parts is greater than any single stand-alone part – the phytonutrients and carotenoids – present in the tomato extract may have accounted for its effectiveness – the tomato team approach.

The Israelis commented that, “this (result) correlates well with the reduction of SBP with TNC 15 mg, which was statistically significant after two weeks of treatment, suggesting that the increase in these tomato constituents was the reason and the driving force for the SBP reduction.”

In summary, “reasonable consumption of tomatoes (roughly 100–200 grams per day), will supply 4–8 mg lycopene, but not enough to drive SBP reduction; therefore, inclusion in the daily diet of other lycopene-rich foods, such as tomato products and supplements is recommended.”

Time to get those great tasting, healthy Louisiana creole tomatoes

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