British scientists say a natural supplement made from tomatoes, taken daily, can stave off heart disease and strokes. The BBC recently reported that the tomato pill contains an active ingredient from the Mediterranean diet – lycopene – that blocks “bad” LDL cholesterol that can clog the arteries.
Ateronon, made by a biotechnology spin-out company of Cambridge University, is being launched as a dietary supplement. Experts said more trials were needed to see how effective the treatment is. Preliminary trials involving around 150 people with heart disease indicate that Ateronon can reduce the oxidation of harmful fats in the blood to almost zero within eight weeks, a meeting of the British Cardiovascular Society was told at Ateronon’s launch on Monday.
Neuroscientist Peter Kirkpatrick, who will lead a further research project at Addenbrooke’s Hospital in Cambridge on behalf of Cambridge Theranostics Ltd, said the supplement could be much more effective than statin drugs that are currently used by doctors to treat high cholesterol.
But Professor Peter Weissberg of the British Heart Foundation told the BBC: “As always, we caution people to wait for any new drug or modified ‘natural’ product to be clinically proven to offer benefits before taking it.”
It will take some time, and several clinical trials, to provide such evidence for Ateronon. “In the meantime,” he said, “our advice to heart disease patients or those at high risk is to rely on proven medications prescribed by their doctor, and aim to get the benefits of a Mediterranean diet by eating plenty of fresh fruit and veg.”
He said the British Heart Foundation had supported some of the basic science at Cambridge University underpinning the development of the product. Lycopene is an antioxidant contained in the skin of tomatoes which gives them their red color. But lycopene ingested in its natural form is poorly absorbed. Ateronon contains a refined, more readily absorbed version of lycopene that was originally developed by Nestle.
In more good health news regarding tomatoes, the compound that makes red wine a healthful drink may soon be found in pizzas. Scientists at Italy’s Institute of Sciences and Food Production developed genetically modified tomatoes expressing high levels of resveratrol, according to a recent paper published by Plant Biotechnology Journal. Resveratrol is produced by some plants, most notably grapes, to ward off pathogens.
Experimental studies have shown that the compound exhibits anti-inflammatory, antiviral and cardio- and neuro-protective potentials. It has also been shown to prevent tumor growth in animal cancer models.