ATLANTA -- Results of a study presented April 3 at the American College of Cardiology's annual meeting show that women may benefit from increased intake of tomato products.
According to Vitamin Nutrition Information Service, the study suggests that lycopene, an antioxidant found in tomatoes, may reduce the risk of heart disease in middle-aged and older women by as much as 33 percent.
Heart disease is the leading cause of death among American women.
The study, conducted by Harvard Medical School researchers at Brigham and Women's Hospital in Boston, analyzed blood samples of nearly 1,000 women with and without cardiovascular disease. Women with the highest levels of plasma lycopene had a 33 percent lower risk of developing cardiovascular disease than those with the lowest levels.
Plasma lycopene refers to the level of lycopene found in the blood. Researchers believe the level of lycopene in the blood correlates with the amount of lycopene in the diet.
"There are no dietary recommendations for lycopene," said Michael Gaziano, M.D., director of cardiovascular epidemiology at Brigham and Women's Hospital and one of the study's authors. "Yet the research suggests that women should aim to consume more lycopene-rich foods as a prudent measure in the prevention of chronic diseases."
High-lycopene dietary sources include tomato-based products such as pizza and spaghetti sauces, as well as pink grapefruit.