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Lycopene and Statins Improve Blood Vessel Function

Heart shaped bowl of tomatoes
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Impaired endothelial function in the inner blood vessel linings increases future heart disease risk, according to professor Jeremy Pearson, associate medical director at the British Heart Foundation. Researchers at the University of Cambridge and Cambridge University Hospitals National Health Service Foundation Trust found that a daily supplement of lycopene, an extract from tomatoes, improved blood vessel function in study patients with cardiovascular disease on statin therapy.

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Crestor is a potent statin that controls cholesterol blood levels. By blocking an enzyme, it causes your liver to produce less cholesterol. This drug also increases your liver’s uptake and breakdown of cholesterol in your blood. Along with diet, Crestor lowers bad low-density lipoprotein (LDL), increases good high-density lipoprotein (HDL) cholesterol, and slows plaque buildup in your arteries. Your doctor may prescribe this medication to help you avoid a serious or deadly stroke.

Tomato Pill Makes Crestor Work Better

While cardiovascular disease incidence varies worldwide, it’s less common in southern Europe where many residents enjoy a heart-healthy Mediterranean diet. A wealth of research shows that this diet’s increased consumption of fruit, vegetables, nuts, fish, and olive oil is good for cardiovascular health. Recent dietary studies found that it reduces related events including heart attack and stroke in high-risk patients.

Lycopene, a powerful antioxidant that’s 10 times more potent than vitamin E, is an important component of the Mediterranean diet. Consuming it in pureed form, as ketchup, or with olive oil enhances its potency. But the underlying mechanisms that produce lycopene’s benefits have been a mystery — until now. Researchers discovered one method they believe contributes to enhanced heart health.

A randomized, double-blind, placebo-controlled, interventional trial investigated the effects of lycopene. The investigators used forearm blood flow, a gold-standard method of measuring blood vessel function, which is predictive of future cardiovascular risk. Heart disease patients had impaired endothelium function in their inner blood vessel linings, which can lead to future cardiac events. The researchers added Ateronon, an over-the-counter supplement containing 7 milligrams of lycopene, to these patients’ existing statin cholesterol-lowering drugs. The healthy control group received a placebo treatment instead.

Artery with cholesterol blockage CanadianPharmacyMeds.comOral lycopene supplementation increased and normalized endothelial function in the statin patients but not in the healthy controls. Blood vessel constriction is one of the key factors that can lead to heart attack and stroke. Treatment increased blood vessel widening by 53 percent, compared to baseline in those taking the pill after correction for those who received the placebo.

“We’ve shown quite clearly that lycopene improves the function of blood vessels in cardiovascular disease patients,” said Dr. Joseph Cheriyan, associate lecturer at the University of Cambridge who is a consultant clinical pharmacologist and physician at Addenbrooke’s Hospital. “It reinforces the need for a healthy diet in people at risk from heart disease and stroke.” He cautioned that a daily tomato pill is not a substitute for other treatments, but it may provide added benefits when patients take it with statins.

Making the Mediterranean Diet Change

If the thought of transforming your eating habits into a Mediterranean diet is daunting, these suggestions will help you make the health-enhancing switch:

  • Eat breakfast every day. Fruits, whole grains, and other fiber-rich foods are great ways to start your day. They’ll keep you full for hours.
  • Pick hearty grains. Replace refined breads and pastas with whole-grain versions.
  • Load up on vegetables. Try a plate of sliced tomatoes drizzled with olive oil and crumbled feta cheese. Or load your pizza with peppers and mushrooms instead of sausage and pepperoni. Add sliced avocado to sandwiches instead of cheese. Salads, soups, and crudité platters also are great ways to increase your vegetable intake.
  • Choose healthy snacks. Eat more fruits and vegetables by substituting them for sweet and salty high-carb snacks.
  • Change the way you think about meat. Limit red and processed meat portions and choose leaner cuts. Add chicken strips to salads or diced prosciutto to whole-wheat pasta dishes.
  • Have seafood twice a week. Fish such as tuna, salmon, herring, and sardines are rich in Omega-3 fatty acids, which decrease triglyceride levels, slow atherosclerotic plaque growth rate, and lower blood pressure. Shellfish like mussels, oysters, and clams have similar heart benefits.
  • Cook a vegetarian meal one night a week. Jump on the Meatless Mondays trend of foregoing meat on the first day of the week. Or pick a day to create dinners around beans, vegetables, and whole grains. Once you get the hang of it, try two nights a week. Don’t load up on cheese instead of meat.
  • Choose good fats. Extra-virgin olive oil, nuts, sunflower seeds, olives, and avocados are great sources of beneficial fats for your daily meals. Sauté foods in healthy oils, not butter. Some vegetable oils like sunflower, safflower, soybean, and corn that are higher in polyunsaturated fats are more heart healthy than the mostly monounsaturated fats in olive oil.
  • Enjoy some dairy products. Try small amounts of cheese. Eat Greek or plain yogurt. Choose low-fat or fat-free dairy products.
  • Drink red wine in moderation. One daily glass for women and two for men provide unique health benefits for your heart, but drinking more than that has the opposite effect.
  • For dessert, feast on fresh fruit. Instead of ice cream or cake, opt for strawberries, grapes, apples, or figs.

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